Ep 68 | Ken Ross

Ken Ross | Rolling the Dice & Preserving the Legacy of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross


Ken Ross has a theory for the way he lives his life and, it didn’t come to be without the influence of his mother, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross.

Ken and I dig deeper into his life experience growing up in a home where grief, death, and dying were a daily part of life and the topic of conversation. His mother, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s first book, On Death and Dying, was the conversation starter for society to take a deeper look into the dying process and all of the feelings one goes through. She started a hospice movement and became known as the founder of The Five Stages of Grief™️, which we also talked about in this episode. Aside from his mother being the pioneer of grief and dying education, his father was a neuropathologist. It wasn’t unusual to have a human brain sitting at the kitchen table while his mother brought terminally ill children his age to the house for a visit.

Growing up around death, dying, and grief set the stage for Ken to understand the fragility of life and not live with regrets. His mother, Elisabeth, was also a huge proponent of living life outside of the box, as she very much expressed in her own life. One of her several final books, The Wheel of Life: A Memoir of Living and Dying, is the story of her extraordinary life as she prepares for death, in her words.

We also discuss Ken’s mission to preserve his mother’s work and legacy so future generations can learn, too.



Victoria Volk 0:08
This is Victoria of the unleashed heart calm, and you’re listening to grieving voices, a podcast for hurting hearts who desire to be heard. Or anyone who wants to learn how to better support loved ones experiencing loss as a 30 plus year griever. In advanced grief recovery methods specialist, I know how badly the conversation around grief needs to change. Through this podcast, I aim to educate gravers and non gravers alike, spread hope and inspire compassion towards those hurting. Lastly, by providing my heart with yours and this platform, Grievers had the opportunity to share their wisdom and stories of loss and resiliency. How about we talk about grief, like we talked about the weather? Let’s get started. Thank you for tuning in to grieving voices. today. I’m very excited to have my special guest can Ross. He is the son of Dr. Elisabeth Kubler Ross, the founder of the ek AR foundation in 2006. And President and he’s also served on the board of the Elisabeth Kubler Ross center from 1989 to 2005. Ken was the principal care provider for his mother in the last nine years of her life until her passing in 2004. His responsibilities include handling over 80, publishers of Dr. Kubler-Ross’s work in 43 languages, public relations, copyright and trademark issues website maintenance, developing international Kubler Ross chapters, developing strategic partnerships as well as preserving her archives. While growing up he traveled with her extensively while on her numerous foreign trips witnessing her lectures and workshops. Ken has lectured on his mother’s legacy for hospices and various conferences in South America, Asia and Europe. There are several film projects that Ken is currently a consultant on including a major motion picture, a television vision series and various documentaries both foreign and domestic. He is a professional photographer by trade and he has photographed 102 countries. He is also the author of real taste of life, a journal by Ken Ross and Elisabeth Kubler Ross from 2002. And tea with Elizabeth, thank you so much for gracing me with your presence in fireside today. It wasn’t awful, but it you’ve led a very interesting and fascinating life, as has your mother, I started to dig into her book, the wheel of life and a memoir of living and dying. I felt drawn to that one of all of all the choices that are there out there. I think just because I have had recently gone through end of life doula certification, I think the the dying process and just the end of life experiences is kind of fascinating me at the moment. And I’ve picked some stuff out of the book that I would like to talk about at some point. But Sure, thank you, thank you so much for being

Ken Ross 3:03
my pleasure. That’s what I’m here for.

Victoria Volk 3:06
So let’s start with you. As I kind of mentioned at the beginning, before we started recording, we could make this whole podcast episode about your mom, there’s lots of content out there available about your mom, but I am curious and interested in learning about how having Dr. Elisabeth Kubler Ross, as a mom has shaped you into the person you are today. And the impact that Her work has had on your life.

Ken Ross 3:32
You know, you don’t see things as are happening, right? You never realized what’s happening as it’s happening. You have to go back and go, Oh my God, that’s why I did this. That’s why I did that. So, you know, at the time, I had two parents growing up who are doctors, and they both worked with dying people or dead people. My father was a pathologist. So my father was bringing home human brains into the kitchen, leaving them you know, because I had to go to new hospital next day. And my mom’s bring home day and people who are my age, sometimes younger, sometimes older, but you know, dying people coming through the house. human brains are sitting in the kitchen, it was very unusual childhood. And so you know, death was something we heard about, if not every week, every day, and we heard at the dinner table. And I met people who are my age who are dying, so certainly made a big impression. And every time I went on a trip with my mother, you know we’re meeting dying people backstage after our conferences and at the workshops and you know, people stopping over in the airports and so forth. So it was death death death made me quite paranoid neurotic about like every little bumping, no, no, I had on my body. But so at the time, you know, it kind of freaked me out because I heard about it too much. But it did impress upon me that life is short and precarious for many people. And even for people who live a full long life. It still seems short because I’m meeting people in their 70s and 80s who are dying in their Like Ken My God, like you know just a few minutes ago I was a kid like what happened like, life went by in a blip and so they’re like yo really go out and really think about life just don’t take it for granted. You know really seize this opportunity you have and you have beautiful opportunity with your mother to do things that a lot of people don’t get to do and kids don’t get to do so anyway, my dad had his National Geographics, and I thought Wow, well if life is short and precarious You know, this would be an amazing way to spend your life these photographers go out and see all these tribes and hang out you know of helicopters and climb mountains, they meet movie stars, that seems like an amazing way if life is so short to go out really live it big. And I was very shy very quiet. And so I thought oh well with a camera I don’t really have to talk I can still be in my shy comfortable space. But I can go out and photograph landscapes nature and meet tribal people and and that would be amazing way just to see the world which is kind of a mysterious place. So I set out to go to 101 countries and that’s what I did. But I studied banking just as a backup because my father was a traditional family guy. And he didn’t want me going off on some flaky concept of being a National Geographic photographer. So state of banking like a good Swiss boy my mom was Swiss. So I thought well that’s my backup you know I can be a good Swiss banker but what I really wanted to do was travel and take photographs and my mom really pushed me to be like a gypsy basically and live my life outside the box. Whereas my father wanted me in the box so constant struggle between the parents right and my father did not believe in life after death my mother did so a lot of conflicts growing up between the parents because you respect them both. They’re both geniuses know their stuff, but you know, you’re kind of pulled in two directions at the same time. And that was a little challenging.

Victoria Volk 6:55
I want to circle back to that the opposite belief system but first I just want to say that I like just when I was a kid, I wanted to be a National Geographic photographer. Oh, and I was my dad was diagnosed when I was six with cancer and I watched him you know slowly decline over the next two years and he died when I was eight and so I had that first early exposure and people my grandma had died too in that time of cancer and so I had been exposed to death and dying and you know, maybe not really not necessarily understanding the the fragility of life how fragile it is, but are really grasping that idea but I grew into that wanting to this urge to travel was in me if it wasn’t a National Geographic photographer, I wanted to be an airline stewardess. I mean, you know, like the idea was to get out and get away and traveling. Yeah, yeah, participate in like yeah, see what else is out there beyond my own four walls? No, did you actually shoot for National Geographic or that was just something that sparked your

Ken Ross 8:03
I wanted to be a National Geographic, you know, kind of photographer I wanted to go out and travel like hardcore. Yeah, get into, you know, remote villages in Africa and South America and, and so I didn’t shoot for them. But I have sold them a number of photographs over the years as stock photography.

Victoria Volk 8:19
Can I ask then how that experience because when you started doing that, and you were on this excursion of 101 now 102 countries, how did that morph into the work that you’re doing with death and dying? And how did that actually in being exposed to those different cultures? What have you taken away from what you’ve learned,

Ken Ross 8:40
so I was doing photography as a hobby as a kid, I was shooting concerts and, and things like that, and traveled with my mother. And when she was given a workshop, I would go take pictures, right? So because she is working for 810 12 hours a day, so I go shoot and at the end of the day, I’d hook up with my mom and then we’d be meeting you know, shamans and Eskimos and fortune tellers and Zulu witch doctors and you name it because my mother loved indigenous people he thought these people really get life and death and are not like hung up on death and they really see it everything as a circle. So she really wanted me to meet all these people, you know, and I saw tables floating in the air and everything you can imagine that’s all building up inside of me. And I’m traveling with mom and going off to college and I didn’t know what I wanted to do. And I was like, Well, you know, bankers realistic but photography is really fun, so and getting exposed to death more and more. And I’m still traveling with my mom even after I got out of school and trying to figure out which way I was going to go. So anyway, I did become a professional photographer. I moved to Australia and then moved to New York and I ended up living in like 13 cities and poor countries. No, because my mom was never like go out and be a gypsy and be crazy and you know, not only live outside the box, but just realize there is no box right? Let’s do it all. And, you know, being a photographer, I’m climbing mountains, I’m going To discos in Beirut, I’m hitchhiking in Zimbabwe, and really living what I think is a fantasy life for most people, even with no training as a photographer, I just did it. So that was great. So as as all about counting your fears, right? And having the perspective that life is short, you know, don’t live your life with regrets. So most people, I think 90% plus of their regrets are things they didn’t do versus things they did do, right. So we have to remember like, all these regrets are things we didn’t do. We lived our lives fear based, we were afraid to tell these people we love them. Embrace people we had fights with you name it, you know, the time to make amends is now the time to take chances. Now, you know, I just went to Iraq for a vacation, right? I mean, that’s a little unusual, but I’m challenging my fears. I’m challenging the preconceived notions of Iraq is a dangerous place. You know, I’ve read about it. I’ve embraced different cultures. I love diversity. And, you know, I just found my rhythm and just I went there, I had a great time, I had no hassles. And so just, you know, and also seeing my mom and the press, I just see how much the press kind of misrepresents things, they focus on the negative, you know, and when I go out, yeah, I’d have an amazing time when I travel, like, I’ve rarely had any problems in 102 countries, I’ve been to nine countries, the Middle East, and done all sorts of crazy things, and met strangers and ended up sleeping in their house in Africa and Asia in different places. And I never had a problem, really. So you know, I just don’t focus on that negativity that we’re fed so much, like, we’re just fed all this fear. I hate that. Because I just find like, a very positive experience. It’s not meant to be perfect. But you know, you can take any experience, and you can find a positive outcome from it, even from death and grief, it can help you grow and learn and embrace love. Even more and more, I did that for, I don’t know, maybe 2530 years. And then, as you may know, my mom’s house was burnt down when she was trying to start a hospice for abandoned babies. And so I brought her down to Arizona, and I ended up taking care of her for nine years, that was crazy, difficult experience. And then after she died, we had people writing us everyday from around the world. So again, it wasn’t my plan. But, you know, after taking care of my mother, I was handling all our business affairs, realizing how complicated it was, and how a lot of people are, you know, misrepresenting her work and abusing her and cheating her and, you know, all the stuff that goes along with the theme and having a brand. So as a son, it really bothered me. And so I began working with all our publishers, and all the press and all the stuff that I wasn’t used to and had no experience with. And then I started the foundation, thinking the foundation would do all the work and get to be a photographer. So now it’s been 16 years or so. And I realized that’s not how foundations work. still kind of figuring out how foundations work after 16 years. But yeah, I’m slowly getting better at it. And last three years been great time for the foundation. We’ve grown a lot internationally as been some nice big press articles on mom, they’ve named a couple of streets after mom and hpcl just had a nice memorial to mom, they have a whole exhibit on her and their headquarters in Washington. And then American Journal bioethics just devoted his entire issue to her that’s donated all my mom’s papers to Stanford are going to develop a digital library. So very exciting. And mom’s legacy, even though she’s not around. Yeah,

Victoria Volk 13:29
I, like I mentioned before we started recording, it’s like you hear all the time on TV and the news and different things, it’ll save five stages of grief, you know, and that’s what people seem to latch on to. And in all of her amazing work that she is accomplished and did in her life. And I was just listening to something this morning that talked about, was talking about, it was about mindfulness. And the one thing that in mindfulness at the end of life, it was like research that was done, and they interviewed people at the end of life. And all these people, every single person had said that their greatest regret was that they had not lived true to themselves, right? And

Ken Ross 14:09
you’re not driving the right car, you’re not the right neighborhood, or the right friends or whatever I like, you know, it’s like society imposes all these guilts and fears and expectations on you, which are so artificial.

Victoria Volk 14:21
And there’s this part in her book, where in the wheel of life where she had talked about where she quit her job because she had decided to work with dying children. Someone had just asked her the question, why don’t you work with dying children? She’s like, you know, good question. Why don’t I you know, but she had quit her job. And then that’s what really led her because they wouldn’t allow her to kind of counsel people who couldn’t pay. And she says, I was not about to stop that practice. If you hired me, you also get what I stood for. There’s like conviction that I you know, I feel that sense of conviction and what she said there and that’s what led to her doing the lectures. But that’s what I also hear what she’s kind of passed down to you and that nope this is what I’m going to do I don’t want to live put myself in a box I don’t want to limit myself and that’s a beautiful gift she gave you I think

Ken Ross 15:11
yeah it’s been amazing it’s been exactly my fantasy when I was a kid I like did everything just about he could possibly do that’s you know the cause it reasonable what’s up so yeah I feel like you know I want to live a life that I wouldn’t mind doing 100 times over and not be bored ever you know you want to live that dream life right and it’s never going to be a dream there’s going to be heartache and sorrow and betrayal and everything else but you know you embrace it and just move past it

Victoria Volk 15:42
so what do you think do other cultures have a one up on us when it comes to death and dying then than we do here in Western society?

Ken Ross 15:50
I think it’s kind of like 50 years ago my mom you know began our official work with death and dying is that we hide death in a closet right now old age homes so we can like not see people get old because we don’t want to deal with it just stick them in a home and hide them away so you know we don’t have to face it you know and funerals you know used to be at home dying people used to bring your uncle home and leave them in the living room for a couple days so that you could see him and have that death be a part of your life and now you know it’s like oh we’re gonna hide them in the hospital we’re gonna hide them in old age home we’re gonna hide them in a whatever a hospice whatever so that’s the problems that we hide death right?

Victoria Volk 16:30
Yeah they would even take pictures with those deceased loved ones

Ken Ross 16:34
you know and they and they make a body so look like they’re artificially they had the rouge and pretty up to here and you know make death look like it’s they’re just sleeping You know? So that’s the problem I was problem 50 years ago and it’s still the problem 50 years later like in other countries, you know, death is a part of life you see it, you know, in front of you. They don’t really hide it the way they do in Western culture,

Victoria Volk 16:58
other cultures Do they have their own rituals and their ways of doing things and I think that’s like with our rituals in the West here with funerals we’ve kind of gotten away from being participants as family members right in the process and you know, we we hire a funeral home to basically handle everything for us and handle the details

Ken Ross 17:19
that made my mother critic closed casket like come on, you got to like say goodbye to the person who can’t say goodbye to a box. Think right? Saying goodbye.

Victoria Volk 17:28
Right? What is your most favorite part of of all the work that your mom had done and accomplished in her life? What is been your favorite piece of it?

Ken Ross 17:38
That’s a tough one. So I’ve got my cat here is going to be pushing against the screen here. Um, you know, I love the way my mom brought in humor to you know, her work, you know, everyone thought, oh, Kubler Ross must have been really serious, right? You know, you look at Radio labs Instagram page right now. And their last photograph they published was my mom wearing an ETL fit, right? She’s in a wheelchair, but she’s still an ETL fit. Like, given people call it the finger because she had chronic pain syndrome. So she didn’t like being hugged. So she’d given the finger like, 80. But yeah, she brought a lot of humor into her work and lightheartedness. And, you know, even though it’s you’re working with dying children all week long, she was totally funny and totally full of life. And, you know, just give you energy, right? So she just showed that it doesn’t have to be depressing and sad, you know, I mean, it is to some degree, of course, but, you know, you can also refocus your energy on life. Two,

Victoria Volk 18:39
so you mentioned that there was this difference in opinion of life after death between your mother and your father. And how did that play out? Ultimately,

Ken Ross 18:52
it was challenging because my father had, I don’t know how he had like, 200 brains in his office, like in a room, right? And he’s, you know, he changes director of his department at Loyola in Chicago. He’s writing all these papers and doing lectures and you know, he was you know, they’re gonna name NEMA library after him, right? The guy was a smart guy he studied. You know, he went to medical school in German, he didn’t speak German. So imagine going to medical school, the language you don’t speak. I mean, that is a driven, intelligent person, right? So, you know, he knew what he’s talking about. And so to my mother, all right, she’s the world’s leading expert on death and dying here talking to those genius neuropathologists you know, it’s hard for the kids. Why do we say like, nothing we can say it contribute to that conversation. But you know, they, they didn’t fight. they disagreed, but they disagree. politely. No, no, Elizabeth, it’s this chemical and that chemical in this and that and this was like, No, we had a blind person come in, and they could tell you how many people were in the room and what color they were wearing, and And so, you know, as like, as like a no win this agreement, so they just agreed to disagree. And that was fine. It was just like that a father had a great sense of humor, and they both kind of laughed about it. So it wasn’t a big deal. But you know, it left us both going home, I went went to a kinesiologist. And they did their little, you know, kind of Hocus Pocus thing and they said you are conflicted between your parents because you respect them both. You love them both. But they were in different energies. I’m like, wow, this person is really good. Pick that up.

Victoria Volk 20:34
So your dad’s opinion of that never changed. never wavered

Ken Ross 20:37
didn’t waver. But of course, there’s this famous rose story that goes along with my mother, that when my sister was like six or seven years old, he said he’s gonna send her flowers on the first snowfall after he died. And that’s basically what he did. He sent flowers, and he died that afternoon. And then next day, my sister got flowers on her front doorstep in the snow. You know, 2530 years later. So what did that mean? Right? So my mother’s like, I told him. My mother think she’d won that argument. Did she? I don’t know. We’ll find out.

Victoria Volk 21:13
There was a beautiful story about a boy named jeffie. And in her book, The Wheel of Life really, like, moved me. But jeffie was a boy that she had worked with and he was had leukemia much of his life. Are you familiar? Do you remember the story?

Ken Ross 21:30
I remember the name, but I can’t remember that particular story. Because I’ve heard like, 10,000 structure.

Victoria Volk 21:35
He had the tricycle or the bicycle. He had gotten a bicycle for his birthday. And he told his dad or

Ken Ross 21:41
one with a brother. Yeah, yeah. Right. Right. The beautiful thing

Victoria Volk 21:45
about her work is that she helped families. I mean, she gave the family a beautiful gift in that in this boy too, because he wanted to go home. And he helped him he helped him communicate that to his parents. And so they took him home, because there was nothing more he didn’t want to do. And he didn’t want to do any more chemo, he was done. So they took him home. And then he said to his dad, because he had gotten this brand new bicycle, but he never got to ride it. He told his dad take this bike down. And he said in you, Dr. Ross, you’re gonna hold my mom back. Right? Because he knew that she could not not, you know, ride with him and hold him and make sure it doesn’t fall and or something. Yeah, he ended up giving the bike to his brother for his birthday because he knew that he was going to pass away. But even before they left the hospital, he told Dr. Ross he had said to her, you know, cuz she said, Well, I don’t have time to go home with all my patients or, you know, all the all the children I help. And he’s like, Don’t worry, it’ll be 10 minutes, like he knew he was going to go home and die. But it was just a beautiful story. It truly truly touched me. But I just think that that’s the beautiful thing about her work is that she assisted so many people in having good deaths.

Ken Ross 22:54
My mother was a master at kind of pulling out symbolic, nonverbal language. So what she called it and said, like a very important part of our work is that my mother, she had like antenna and she could just pick up things that were not said verbally, but she could pick up things and she has new like, she’s like head Oh, radar station on her head, she was picking up all the stuff, nonverbal communication, and she could just find out stuff about patients in seconds, and go Okay, all we got to talk here because this person’s about to go. Or this person needs to say something that’s gonna be a big breakthrough. And she was just a master at that. And she did it to me too, which made me crazy, couldn’t keep any secrets from my mom, cuz she just pick up stuff.

Victoria Volk 23:40
very intuitive and empathic, likely to

Ken Ross 23:44
incredibly, like just the stories that, you know, I heard about my mom picking up stuff or just out of this world.

Victoria Volk 23:50
I mean, that’s just one little blip of her work of what she did

Ken Ross 23:54
hundreds and hundreds of stories I’ve heard just on that particular topic. And I have my favorites. But I mean, you know, everyone I talked to, oh my God. He said, assuming your mother did, I’m like, Oh, yeah, she does that all the time every week.

Victoria Volk 24:06
Give me one of your favorites. my very

Ken Ross 24:09
favorite I heard after she died. I heard it from her best friend in the late 60s was this the hospitals are really mad at her or doing this work with dying patients. So they assigned her this big, like six foot three African American priest, who turns out was also a Black Panther. Right? So here’s my mom, five foot tall Swiss accent with a six foot three African American Black Panther priest come down the hallway. It’s quite the scene, right? In the 60s, that was pretty heavy duty. Yeah, so anyway, within a few weeks, the priests like like fell in love, not romantically but with my mom and her work and said, Okay, I’m not going to stop her. I’m going to protect her. So if any doctor got my mom’s face, this, you know, six foot three guy said, you get out of here or else it’s going to be trouble. And so they weren’t about to get in a fight with a priest so they’d head out and Elizabeth would do her work. But anyway, he said, like one time we came into a room and this woman had cancer of the jaw and throat and had her mouth wired shut. And we sat down. And he said, Your mother seemed to have an entire conversation with her, even though she could only grunt and you could not understand a single word. The woman said, Your mother understood her and was answering her. And a woman would grant your mother would talk the woman grant. And this went back and forth for a few minutes. And then your mother turned to me and said, Get this woman an apple and walked out of the room with no explanation. He said, Well, why would I get a woman whose mouth is wired shut, and Apple didn’t make sense. They said, Your mother’s very famous. And he didn’t say no, your mother. So I went down to the cafeteria, got swollen and apple and she started crying. And so I said to her, can you please explain what transpired between you and Elizabeth? If I get a piece of paper and a pen? Can you write down what happened? And she wrote that she had been school teacher, and she wanted to get one more Apple like our students used to give her before she died. And and disguise like, she did not say a word like you cannot. How did Elizabeth come up with this? That’s just unbelievable. But your mother does this? Did this like every day? It’s incredible.

Victoria Volk 26:10
Wow. Wow. That’s a good story. Yeah. That’s a good story.

Ken Ross 26:15
Yeah. I mean, he has lots of and she did it in our workshops every week to just craziness. Like, there was 100 people sitting around in a workshop, and one person wouldn’t participate. And my mother wouldn’t allow that. So I brought the guy into the circle, and said, Look, I’m homeless, I only came for the food. Somebody gave me this as a gift. I appreciate what you’re doing. But you know, there’s nothing you can do or say, to get me to participate. I am dead inside. So my mother sat there for like, 15 minutes, not a word. And the staffs like, Oh, this guy is stumped Elizabeth finally. And so she said, Let’s sing a song. And my mother picked a song. They also 100 people started singing it and this guy broke down crying uncontrollably. And when he composed himself, he said, that’s a song. I used to sing to my son before he died. He was 16. How did Elizabeth pick that song? Right? I mean, unbelievable.

Victoria Volk 27:06
Yeah, I literally have goosebumps.

Ken Ross 27:10
It’s like, you know, she had the hotline to the big guy upstairs.

Victoria Volk 27:15
Wow. I wonder someday she’ll be a saint and be a sainthood.

Ken Ross 27:21
Saint and devil. She was naughty, but nice.

Victoria Volk 27:26
So what is it? You know, that’s the thing like she seems like this feisty, like, don’t you’re no one’s gonna stop me. Oh, yeah. You know, like, very driven. And where does that come from? Where did that come from?

Ken Ross 27:38
From her father. Her father was incredibly stubborn. And she was constantly butting heads with her father, because she was stubborn, too, naturally. But I think her father was like the thing like, who was going to be more stubborn? And so yeah, my mother’s is driven from day one. She was doing things which were totally ridiculous. And no one was going to stop, right? I mean, when she was a kid, she had a pet monkey. Nobody in rural Switzerland in 1930s had a pet monkey. My mother had a pet monkey had African dolls. Swiss girls didn’t play with African dolls. Where did that come from? You know, my mother went to one of the neighbors who was dying and asked him what it was like to be dying, which was like seven years old. Swiss girls didn’t do that. No, but my mother did. Right? I mean, just everything was always focused on like, inquiring want to know what life’s about what’s death, about what you know, I want to know, I want this. Don’t get my wife. She would beat up the school bully if you picked on like her sister. Yeah. And she was tiny. So she was just driven from day one.

Victoria Volk 28:44
Do you have any doubts that when we come into this world, that the path is kind of laid out in front of us? And yes, it’s our freewill to choose and follow those insights or follow those intuitive things that Barker interest or our curiosity. But do you believe that that is just something that like she knew her path? Like she just followed the her curiosity wherever it led her?

Ken Ross 29:09
Yeah, absolutely. I think she said, You know, we’re all here to figure out what our path is. And most people don’t really find it, or they find pieces of it, but they don’t really find the center of the river. And my mom was like, you know, in the center of the river from day one. She just knew what she had to do. And she was always striving for more and more and didn’t matter if it was realistic or possible. She just did it.

Victoria Volk 29:32
Well, and she didn’t listen to the naysayers even as a young child, right? she just, she could have felt like when someone said to her well, who has a pet monkey? Well, oh, yeah, that’s kind of weird, you know, and, you know, but she didn’t she continued on like, she marched to the beat of her own drum. Oh, yeah, I mean,

Ken Ross 29:50
her stubbornness is like legendary during her one of her last Tia strokes after the fire, like I’m sitting with her, and she’s In the middle of having a stroke, right, and I’m trying to get her to go to the hospital and she’s like, no, get me a cigarette, you know. You’re having a stroke. Yeah. Okay, get me a cigarette like him have a stroke who asked for a cigarette in the middle of a stroke? I mean, you don’t take me to the hospital, they’ll kill me. You know, I mean, just insane.

Victoria Volk 30:22
Do you mind sharing what her last words for you were?

Ken Ross 30:25
Well, it’s really interesting. It wasn’t her like very last word. But you know, for nine years, I took care of her. And you know, she was angry to some degree, and then she gets bashed for that too. It’s like, Okay, well, let’s say your house has burned down. All your research labs research has burned down. Your favorite animal shot, the police declare an accident. You know, you have paralyzing stroke. He can’t garden you can’t do your work. You can’t do anything. You sit in a chair. Why would you be angry? Like, oh, she’s a human being. So she was expected to be like, you know, Buddha or something. But, so for nine years, he’s like, you know, if he was angry, he can see on the Oprah interview. It’s on YouTube, but her version of angry is like, you know, she’s so like laughing and smiling too. So it’s not like he’s like wow, with a knife. But anyway, she said, Oh, I want to die. I want to die. Shot suicide. Oh, she’s like, okay, I’ve done all my work. I’m ready to check out it’s no big deal. Let’s just go so after nine years of saying she wants to die, she’s ready to die. Like out of the blue. I’m in a room as Kennet. I’m not ready to die. I don’t want to die right now. I’m like, What? So I’m like, What did you say? And then to change the subject, like, go get me talk or something, or just totally like, oh, give me some flowers? Or I’m like, wait, no, what did you say? She would not go back to it. And I’m like, What did that what was that after nine years. And then a few weeks later, she died. And it took me like two, three years to realize that, oh, my mom learned her final lesson. That’s what she’s always saying, when we learn our lessons, we’re allowed to graduate, which means die, make our transition. And so when my mom like over all of her anger, and learned her final lesson to let people love her and take care of her, not being the one in charge, and she was allowed to graduate, right away is like, Wow, it was totally right. That’s exactly what she said her whole life. And she learned her final lesson, she was allowed to make her departure

Victoria Volk 32:30
that reminds me of I did a podcast interview with a medium who mentioned one of her most memorable clients was mother who had lost a son to suicide. And the mother was so concerned that the son was not in heaven, because like he was really being his soul was tormented or whatever. And the medium told her, Well, the son told the medium and the medium communicated that. No, he’s in school, because he didn’t learn his lessons in the physical plane that he had to learn it. You know, his soul had to learn it after. And so that he was in school, learning his lessons. So it made me think of that. And so what I’m curious then to like, what the lessons that your mom has passed on to you about the afterlife, what has stuck with you, mostly?

Ken Ross 33:22
in that department, I have to say, I’m torn between my parents because my father did not leave life after death. Mm, smart guy, genius. Great guy, mother? Absolutely. You know, I saw any number of things that have no rational explanation. So I guess I kind of take a hybrid view of both my parents. And my only concern is like, what’s now today? I have no interest. Like if you had a fortune teller medium, who could? Who was absolutely you knew was like the real thing and tell you everything. I would have zero interest because I love the surprise. I don’t want to know. And I don’t think pragmatism is the right word. I don’t know what the word is. But I’m just like mother taught me is that whatever happens is, what happens is fine, it’s like, everything’s fine. That’s what’s gonna happen. You know, my only fear, I guess, is, I have no fear of death. I only fear like, the things that I can control. So I can’t control death, but I can control how I live. My fear, I guess would be like wasting my life or not living to the max, right? So that’s my only fear is like, oh, I’ve got to use every opportunity, I’ve got to look for the clues. Because that’s what I can control. I can control if you know, a meteor falls on my head. I’m not worried about that. I’m not worried the planes gonna crash or, you know, I’m gonna die or whatever, because I have no control over that. So I only fear the things I can control the things that are in my power. I have no interest in life after death, in that, whatever happens can happen and that Nature and I totally embrace whatever, whatever is real. You know, in the afterlife. That’s great. If there’s no life after death, that’d be great. There’s life after that great if there’s reincarnation, that’s great. I just, I just totally maybe as Buddhist I don’t know, I just whatever happens, I accept, because that’s what, that’s the nature of the universe. And so I accepted 1,000%. So I’m not, I don’t care what happens. Does that make sense? Yeah, yeah. Like I just like, at peace with the reality of what is

Victoria Volk 35:35
very much you’re in the present. And that’s a lot. That’s a very big problem for a lot of people. And so I congratulate you for that. Because, I mean, like, either a lot of people are stuck in the past, or they’re stuck in the future, they’re always thinking ahead. And they’re always, you know, planning for the, for tomorrow or next week in the next year, but yet, they can’t like just be still in the moment, you know? Yeah, it was a good wake

Ken Ross 35:58
up. And I have this thing called the dice theory, like, every day, I want to like roll the dice, meaning, I want to make something happen. Right? I don’t know what it is. Sometimes, you know, I feel like Oh, you know what I should call 10. People today, call 10 people and see what they’re doing. Maybe they’ll give me an idea. Or maybe I’ll give them an idea. Maybe call 10 strangers go on LinkedIn and just contact 10 people and see what happens. It’s like I’m just rolling the dice of life going, Hey, let’s make something happen. Well, let’s let’s go and take a drive and move on discover new restaurant or new thing. Or maybe I’ll meet somebody or so it’s my dice theory, like everyday, make something happen just by chance, or by feeling the groove like, you know, today, I think I should work on my mom’s tapes are my mom’s books or call some publishers and just make something happen. So I have a everyday I want to throw that dice to like make things happen, because a dice will bump into other dice, and start something you wouldn’t have expected had you not throw the dice, or create a chain reaction. I’m going to call my group and prove and see, hey, maybe we can come up with an idea just by having a talk. So I’ve worked my dice theory every day.

Victoria Volk 37:12
I absolutely love that. Is that how you connected with me on LinkedIn? Yeah, rolled the dice.

Ken Ross 37:19
Part of the dice theory,

Victoria Volk 37:20
and I rolled the dice right back at you. Well, I’ll take that as a handshake, leave you my podcast. Yeah. Here we sit, right?

Ken Ross 37:27
That’s totally the dice theory, right? Like if I didn’t like reach out, then we wouldn’t be here today. And maybe you’ll meet somebody else from my mom’s family. And you’ll have something that’s not only for me, it’s for other people, I

Victoria Volk 37:39
impact roll it for,

Ken Ross 37:41
for the universe and for everybody and to make things happen for everybody. Also, for other people,

Victoria Volk 37:48
I love that.

Ken Ross 37:49
I have the dice series as my

Victoria Volk 37:52
maybe that’s a book title.

Ken Ross 37:54
That isn’t dicey living your life.

Victoria Volk 37:57
Yeah, you better not chop that down. I get the first copy.

Ken Ross 38:02
Okay, you’re part of a dice theory. So right, it works. You’re here. I’m here. And this is like, you know, but every day I want to roll the dice and like, I still want to sit back and wait, you know, if you sit back, and maybe it’ll happen, but if you throw the dice, then you’re participating. It’s like, and you know, it’s like, I walk down the street and I talk to people in countries where I go and things happen. Oh, here’s the dice theory. I had two weeks off, and I bought a one way ticket to Chile. I got the first night hotel and and I had no plans. I didn’t study a book. I didn’t make no idea what’s happening in Chile or Santiago. I just flew down there one way. That’s it, I’m walking down the street first hour, nice doorway, I take a selfie. An hour later, somebody on Facebook says, oh, I’ve been writing you from Colombia for three years. I wanted to meet you. Can we have dinner tonight? I’m now in Santiago with my boyfriend. I’m like, yeah, cuz I have no plans. I’m just throwing the dice. So she said I’m going to bring a translator on speak English. So we met for dinner. And she had my mom’s beliefs tattooed on her arm, right? So like a hardcore mom fan. He said, I want to start a foundation in Chile. I go great. Well, I mean, you got these tattoos you’re like, seem like you’re really a lovely person. You’re really like enthusiastic. I said, if the board doesn’t agree within the next 90 days, I will just give you permission to do it. Because I feel this is right as part of my dice theory. Right? So within 90 days, the board said yes, she started a chapter. And her dream was to start the first pediatric hospice in Chile and Santiago. So he kr initiated the first pediatric hospice in Chile, because of the

Victoria Volk 39:38
dice theory, because he took a selfie in front of a picture that someone

Ken Ross 39:41
because I just bought a one way ticket to Chile, I thought, Oh, I just feel like I want to do this. I need to do this. So this is a nice theory. Like there’s a pediatric hospice being built out in San Diego because of the dice theory, right? It’s like,

Victoria Volk 39:52
Ah, yes. Amazing. Yeah, it’s following the intuitive hits. Like you get this intuitive thought like Oh, just book it. It’s One thing to have a thought it’s another thing to follow up and take action on that thought. And how many thoughts in a day do we let just slip by us? You know, just picking up the phone and telling someone, Hey, how are you doing? I’ve been thinking about you. I do that a lot.

Ken Ross 40:14
You know, maybe next week, they died in a car accident, something but at least you reached out and like, you didn’t have unfinished business. So I’m saying like, Don’t die with unfinished business.

Victoria Volk 40:24
So we stay in grief recovery, too. Yeah, so that was a thing

Ken Ross 40:27
I like in the 70s. Her workshops. Were all about dealing with your unfinished business. Right? Oh, so you can have a good death? Yeah, yeah. So I just went to Kurdistan in northern Iraq, right? And I’m like, Well, okay. It’s as nice as for me, but it’s kind of, not maybe not hedonistic, but it’s like, okay, I want to give back to. So I reached out to a board member who travels a lot. And I said, Do you have any contacts in Iraq? He said, Oh, yeah, I know, an oncologist in the eastern part of Kurdistan. So I wrote her. I didn’t hear back. And when I got there, I thought, I’m gonna try one more time. I reached out. She said, Oh, yeah, well, can we have a meeting tomorrow morning? I’m like, Yeah, great. So I went there. And we had an hour long talk, I tour the hospital, it was very depressing. It was the best hospitals, supposedly in Iraq. And so should we really need help? So I said, Oh, well, we’ll give you our palliative care trainings from the foundation, if that would help, right. And so then I reached out to the board member who connected us, I said, we need to help this woman. So he’s connected her to this worldwide palliative care group. So I’m hoping that will lead to things too. But it’s because of like, Oh, I should, like, do something for mom and the foundation while I’m in Kurdistan, right. So it’s also part of the theory of just like, I was like, you know, it’s great for me having a nice trip and my photography, but let’s like, it works better with karma, if it goes both ways, and I do something for other people. So, so that was a nice example, too. It’s like, we’ve just given them 11 classes, and we’re gonna be sending them to more classes. And I tried to connect them some people to get some more trainings, and they have a lot of problems there with money and lack of pain medication, and so forth. And that I can’t do anything about but at least we can help train their doctors,

Victoria Volk 42:19
which will be huge. So the ripples impact? Yeah. Oh, I love that. The dice theory, I want to kind of come back to something, you know, that I asked earlier about your mom, and at the end of her life? Have you had any moments of where you felt like, Oh, that’s my mom, like, tapping me on the shoulder. Oh, after she passed,

Ken Ross 42:43
Oh, yes. I have a drum set. I’m part time drummer. Because I don’t do enough. And my mom had sense of humor. So three or four times, within the first year after she died. Every time I bend over to tie my shoe, the snare drum would hit just once. I mean really loud. And it would scare the bejesus out of me. Only when I’m bending over, like, you know ones, like maximum freakout effect in the house by myself and bang,

Victoria Volk 43:16
undeniable, right? Yeah, that’s like,

Ken Ross 43:19
mommy gonna give me a heart attack. And then once I was in my bedroom closet, my cat had kittens sitting on the floor with my girlfriend at the time. And I clearly heard my mom’s voice say hello with her Swiss accent. I’m like, wow, I totally projected mom’s voice that time. I was like, I was the loudest I’ve ever heard my mom’s voice. And I look up and my girlfriend’s like, what was that? There’s a woman in here. Like you heard that? She’s like, yeah, there’s is a housekeeper in here. I’m like, is Sunday night at 11? What would a housekeeper be? Like? Like, know that? I think that was mom. Because Yeah, she had an accent. I’m like, yeah, that was mom.

Victoria Volk 43:59
Wow, that was weird. So that still hasn’t swayed your her thoughts on afterlife? Oh, no,

Ken Ross 44:05
I totally not saying it’s not. But if it is, I don’t know what form it is. You know, is it the Buddhist idea is that the Christian idea is, you know, I mean,

Victoria Volk 44:17
yeah, beautiful mystery, right?

Ken Ross 44:19
It’s not like, saying I don’t care sounds too irreverent. But it’s like, whatever it is, is like, you know, I certainly I’m not saying there’s not I’m saying, I don’t know, 100% maybe I know 99%. But the only thing I know 100% is I’m here today and and that’s great. And I just work on today and what I know and what I have and throw those dice and when I get to that point, then I’ll know that for sure. Yeah,

Victoria Volk 44:45
do we ever really know like till battle. It doesn’t matter.

Ken Ross 44:48
To me if there’s life after death, or it’s not or it’s in this form or I come back 100 more times. You know, I just accept it because that’s what it is. You

Victoria Volk 45:00
brings to mind a thought I have just in bringing that up. It’s because for a lot of Grievers, or people who are bereaved and had to say goodbye, and maybe it was a traumatic death or whatever they have, you know, unfinished business with that person or whatever it is, to feel that connection with someone to know that there’s a connection or that there is something after can bring people a lot of comfort. But But I can imagine, though, and just in knowing who your mom was in the work that she did, like, you feel connection with her and everything that you do, I imagine.

Ken Ross 45:38
Oh, yeah, I mean, you know, I mean with especially with my mom, because I’m totally spoiled because I have, you know, her two dozen books and I have 100 audio tapes. And I have 100 videotapes, and I have her on YouTube and I have an everywhere I go, like on the planet, people like Oh, I know your mother, I make our mother like, you know, like, everywhere, it’s like, and I hear these, I keep hearing new stories, like how many stories can there be how many people have met on this planet? Like, Everywhere I go, it’s like wow, like is is like she lived 10 lifetimes or something because it’s not possible that one person did so much in such a short amount of time. You know, I mean, she basically started when she was 40 years old, and retired in her 60s and she wrote two dozen books and hundreds of chapters and did hundreds of workshops around the world and started the hospice movement to some degree and started the belif Kermode son degree and she you know, I mean she was seeing patients she had a working farm she was a mother she was answering hundreds of 1000s of letters she was you know cooking for the workshops she didn’t have enough to do and you know is just insane how much he did as I say impossible that one person did all this but she did

Victoria Volk 46:55
do you think she had any regrets or did she ever voice any regrets?

Ken Ross 46:59
She was just pissed off about her paralysis at the end but I was out of her control yeah was out of our control so other than that pin boys any

Victoria Volk 47:10
you know like wishing that she would have started sooner like oh if I just started my 20s I would have had you know this many more years to

Ken Ross 47:19
you know, at the end she said yeah, Kenneth is Do whatever you want if you want to do my work great if you don’t want to do my work great. Do whatever feels right. And destroy no guilt. No expectations. No. pressure.

Victoria Volk 47:31
I was a gift to Yeah. So Kim, if you if you were to summarize her life in five minutes or less sure. What what has I mean, just do a rundown list of like, over life over work.

Ken Ross 47:53
Um, so I think the the main overview, the umbrellas fabric, would say that she was trying to fight the depersonalization of the dying, the the dehumanization of the death process and of patients, you know, because she said, patients are just like, numbers in a bed is disgusting, like, treat these people as individuals, right? You know, and, and respect them and at least give them a few minutes of personal dignity. Just don’t treat them like okay, this is the cancer patient, this leukemia patient, that’s the whatever, you know, so she was fighting the dehumanization, and a medicalization of, of dying, right? So that’s her big thing was treating people as human beings not as patients and in numbers of beds and things. Right. And, and fighting for hospice because she really wanted people to die at home with their families with proper care and pain medication. She said, No one should ever die in pain. It’s ridiculous that, you know, in the late 19th century and 20th century and 21st century, we haven’t made more progress with this. said there’s pain medications, why are people dying in pain in Africa? Why did I go this hospital in Kurdistan? There’s no pain medication in the 21st century. It’s just outrageous. It’s about her talking about the the four quadrants was really big for her. Nobody talks about but everyone uses but think they don’t realize I think it came from my mother is that imperative care, we have, you know, the balance of the emotional, intellectual, physical and spiritual. I think this idea came from my mom, which she got it I think, from young but not used in palliative care. But in early 70s, my mother was saying you need to treat patients with the four quadrants. If you just treat the physical you’re not healing a person you need to deal with the emotional and intellectual and the spiritual, as well as the physical right so the four quadrants was huge for my mother, I was part of everything in my mom’s world was a circle a wheel right. So The four quadrants of of health is the basis of palliative care, but I think no one realizes it came from most of this work. And then what else externalizing our emotions. Learning to everything in life is perspective. Her work is very much like logotherapy she was friends with Viktor Frankl you know, they really do their work was very tied together. challenging your fears, embrace embracing unconditional love. bioethics, listening hope. I think these are the wheel that makes up Elizabeth work.

Victoria Volk 50:35
Yeah, I actually had Dr. Chris Kerr, who was he’s been studying end of life experiences in the surviving death series on Netflix, I had him on the podcast and, and that, and again, like that just comes back to the end of life training that I had, we that’s what we talk about is the whole person. Because when you when you die, you come into this world, a whole person, and you go out a whole person spiritually, physically, emotionally, mentally, like all of those things, right? So yeah, it’s very important that the all the whole person is addressed. Right? So they can have a good death is really what it comes down to.

Ken Ross 51:15
What else that’s and learning, of course, to listen to symbolic verbal language and symbolic nonverbal language is also extremely important. When you’re a death doula or end of life worker doctor working with dying patients, really learning about the symbolic, non non verbal language of people is hugely important because a lot of people don’t have the words children don’t have the words they don’t have the vocabulary. Older people are beginning to lose over vocabulary. But they give you science, like look for the science.

Victoria Volk 51:45
Absolutely. What is, I mean, can you just kind of quickly go over like, because I know her life has been it? You just you kind of touched on it at the very beginning. Like just the all the stuff that she did? What’s the highlight reel?

Ken Ross 52:05
highlight reel? another tough question. For me, it’s like, you know, the day World War Two ended, she joined a peace group. And you know, living in Switzerland, comfortable food, no dangerous, no, nothing, you know, she could have just easily stayed there and lived a happy, comfortable life. But she she needed to go out and always help the underdog. And so she joined a peace group. And her father said, If you leave the house, you’re never going to come back. And my mother said, I don’t care. Like, this is the right thing to do. People are suffering, and we’re so comfortable. How can we sit here and not just be horrified how, you know, we have all the stuff and everyone else is suffering around us in Europe. So she hitchhiked you know, through France and rebuilt the village. Right. And you know, she was starving. I mean, she was like, you know, looking for scraps of bread on on the ground when she could have been comfortable at home. And then she went up into Denmark, she almost died. And then she went to Germany, and she almost died there from burns from a pot that broken boiling oil spilled on her legs, you know, and then she went to Denmark, Sweden, went into Poland, she worked in a camp, she lived with the gypsies, she went to the concentration camps. I mean, those two years alone are just, you know, beyond belief, what she did, and so brave, and risking her life over and over and over just to help, you know, dying people and people who are just barely hanging on with nothing. And so that was amazing by itself. And then she, she snuck in a German convoy. They put her in a box of vegetables, and locked it up. And she snuck through the Russian lines, and went back to Berlin where she caught a train back to Switzerland. So it was crazy. And then, you know, she went to medical school when women were not going to medical school. And she didn’t have the money she needed to have the proper accreditation. But because of her relief work during World War Two, after World War Two, I kind of let her slide in Wow. You know, went to America and then you know, the whole story with the University of Chicago and fighting the establishment and having doctors spit on her in the hallway and people leaving nasty notes. How do you talk to dying patients, you know, your vulture should be ashamed of yourself. I’m going to try to take your license away horrible, you know, just for trying to lead dying patients have a chance to say goodbye to the families.

Victoria Volk 54:45
so incredible. And that wasn’t even that long ago. And I think about this grand scheme of things.

Ken Ross 54:51
Yeah. And she has so many stories that, you know, patients dying and their families literally 10 footer in the hallway and because it’s not visiting hours, they don’t let the family To say goodbye and the patient dies alone in a room because of the hospital rules. And also, she was also fighting against the hospital rules and the rules that they can’t bring in children and all these ridiculous things that were going on around this kind of sick death culture in America,

Victoria Volk 55:14
what do you think, helped change that the most? I mean, just because what was there something a part of her work that really changed that aspect of the dyeing process,

Ken Ross 55:25
you know, she shined the light on it, between her book and that article in Life magazine, you know, a millions of people read about it. And here’s this woman willing to talk about death in an open and honest way. And no one was doing that, I mean, almost no one that was doing that anyway. And my mother had a capacity to kind of use a simple language, in part because she was a foreigner, and didn’t have a big command of the English language. But she had this way of just communicating way that people could understand whether it was a doctor or a patient or anybody. And, you know, this Life magazine article is shine so much light that they could no longer deny that there was this huge problem happening in America. And you know, in Western culture, Europe, and elsewhere. So, so much light shined on it, that they could no longer like, hide it. So they had to face it.

Victoria Volk 56:17
So in the midst of COVID, in the process of ways that people have not been able to be with their loved ones, and the impact that has on the bereaved and those dying, and what do you think your mom would have said to that? And do you think that that has actually highlighted how far behind we are?

Ken Ross 56:42
I think it has, because there’s been a lot of articles talking about Elizabeth and, and the stages of grief and all that more than usual. But I think my mother would compare COVID to the AIDS crisis, because she said it was just like a crisis, and that there was so much misinformation, so much fear, there’s so much anger that was being mis directed at things which had nothing to do with the conversation. But people were angry, fearful, there was like, a lot of attacks, all these things going on, which is very similar to COVID. Right? You know, people’s fear, you know, death and a brings out their fear of death, right? And that comes out in various ways and hostility and all this air rage and all these things going on now is misdirected anger over their fear of COVID and death. So, you know, she was a great parallels because, you know, the whole age crisis was a big thing for my mom and demonstrating how the society had so much further to go with the conversation about death and dying. And grief and facing an honestly and, and dealing with our unfinished business. Right. So just, you know, COVID, again, demonstrates we haven’t dealt with our unfinished business.

Victoria Volk 57:55
Now, many of us. And you since you brought it up the five stages. Can we go there? Can we talk about that a little bit?

Ken Ross 58:05
Speaking of anger,

Victoria Volk 58:08
yeah. Tell me what, tell me really lay the truth out today.

Ken Ross 58:14
Talk to 10 people get 10 versions of the truth.

Victoria Volk 58:17
Yeah, yeah. Get it from the horse’s mouth, like I guess. Yeah.

Ken Ross 58:21
My version of the truth. So we have on death and dying of the real book, right? Yes, my my dummy copy. If we go to page 251, I believe Yes. Sophie, look in the actual book, right? So we look here, we see that Elizabeth clearly writes about 10 stages, right? It says 12345. And yet those 10 boxes. So I think to some degree, the publisher, kind of when they were putting together the manuscript kind of focused it into five stages. I’m guessing it’s a guess, because my mom did an entire chapter on hope. But why isn’t hope, a chapter big? You know, a sage because she does a whole chapter on anger or chapter on bargaining. denial. There’s a whole chapter on hope, but they didn’t consider that a stage or why not? I don’t know. It doesn’t make sense. But anyway, basically, Elizabeth was trying to say that grief is complex. And back in the 60s, grief was this monolithic thing. And Elizabeth was trying to say that grief is made up of different components, right? So it’s very ironic that people say to me, oh, you know, Elizabeth didn’t get it right. Because grief is complex, and it’s not made up of five stages. I’m like, Well, okay. The point is that she was saying that grief is made up of individual emotions. That you know, it’s not one thing you can add anxiety you can add, you know, my mom talked about preparatory grief which is the same as anticipatory grief, right, which became Kind of trendy to talk about, I think the last two years, because that’s part of COVID this anticipatory grief, but Elizabeth mentioned it in on death and dying 50 years ago, and some people are acting like, you know, it was just like discovered or, or identified just recently, but you know, Elizabeth, not a half a century ago. And she talked about shock. And she talked about hope. And she talked about, you know, Claire Bidwell Smith, I think, did a book on the missing stage of anxiety. Elizabeth mentioned anxiety, 14 times in on death and dying, right? So But no, she didn’t identify it as a stage. But he identified it as an element of the process that we sometimes go through. So the stages are not meant to be like a ladder, or some way to graduate to acceptance, it’s just meant to be a way to have a conversation is a models, not the only model is this one model that you want to contribute, to have a conversation about grief, which people weren’t having, and still don’t really have in healthy ways, quite often. So again, it’s a model, it’s not meant to be the only model is meant to be a flexible model. And if you look on our website, AK ar foundation.org, you’ll see there’s various demonstrations of how she talked about the stages, as circles, you know, as as one line going back and forth. She talks about dreams as being part of the stages, talks about a lot of things which are not generally talked about in society that will fix fixate on the five stages. But Elizabeth talked about many more things. And after 1975, she rarely talked about stages at all. She those, I think she was on a show with O’Brien’s 7475. And she goes, Oh, let’s not talk about the stages are so old, right in 75. And then they bash Elizabeth, because that’s all she talked about. I’m like, No, that’s all you guys are talking about. She talked about 50 other things in society and popular media that just can’t let go of it. Right? They say it doesn’t exist. And yet it is the most popular grief theory on the planet. It is like, you know, not making it up. Because it’s my mother. It’s like, it’s been used in over 100 TV shows and movies. Right? It. There’s, like plays about the five stages, there’s novels, there’s cartoons, there’s games, there’s, you know, I’m teen doesn’t plays about the five stages, right? So I mean, you know, I’m sorry, but it is popular, like what does that mean? Does that mean it doesn’t exist? I don’t know, it must trigger something. To some people. There’s 10s of 1000s of articles by people who experience the five stages. So you can’t say it doesn’t exist because 10s of 1000s of articles by people said I experienced it or it helps me so you can say it’s not appropriate to everybody. You can say it’s good for some people, but it hurts other people because they think they need to go through it. You know, I would accept that. But you can’t say it doesn’t exist or it’s been disproven. That’s just you know, denial. That’s a model period.

Victoria Volk 1:03:18
Do you think Can I ask Can you clarify is is how the media and how her work has been interpreted around that has that is that not what she is? Is that what she intended? Did she you don’t I mean,

Ken Ross 1:03:36
I was with her sometimes, you know, she’d see like the Simpsons episode where something goes through the five stages. You’re like, What? Why does that bullshit love to say that word with her Swiss accent? That’s bullshit.

Victoria Volk 1:03:53
Oh, that wasn’t her intention like and in the book was in the book was written in that context, in the work of working with the dine correct.

Ken Ross 1:04:03
But I mean, I would say like, even though like the BBC just did a story saying the rise and fall of the five stages. PS we use it to train our workers. I mean that that doesn’t make sense. Like, how can you say, the fall of the five stages? pS we’re using it to train our entire staff. That’s like,

Victoria Volk 1:04:23
I think it’s one of those things that people love to hate and they love to just sink their teeth teeth into I’ve even said that it’s like of all her amazing work that she’s accomplished and done. That’s the one thing that like you said, just the people can’t let it go.

Ken Ross 1:04:39
Right? And then they blame Elizabeth because she couldn’t let it go and like she let it go. Like in 75. Yeah, that

Victoria Volk 1:04:44
wasn’t even her focus. Like that wasn’t such a small part of her work.

Ken Ross 1:04:49
So we just said the five stages used in the first was the Marvel Comics, as in Deadpool two and then Disney just use it as Their central focus of their movie krewella. And the is an actual advertising for the movie, they talk about the five stages. Yeah, and I really think it’s more popular than ever. I mean, it’s just everywhere I look. It’s used. There’s been over 60 musicians I’ve identified, who’ve done songs or albums based on the five stages or Elizabeth. I mean, how many grief theories have 60 songs written about it, or albums written about it, or like EP is like, every song is one of the stages. There’s even two bands named Kubler Ross. You know, she’s like part of popular media, like not only her stages, but she is part of it. Her voice is used in rock songs. It’s so bizarre to me sometimes.

Victoria Volk 1:05:46
Wow. She’s embedded in our culture, very much. so

Ken Ross 1:05:50
bizarre, though. It’s like, wow, where’s this gonna continue going? Like one’s gonna stop.

Victoria Volk 1:05:55
So did she clarify more of that in her later work in books.

Ken Ross 1:06:03
She really tried not to talk about it. She was like, fed up with the conversation. But right before her death, were contacted by another grief worker, David Kessler. And you know, we were contacted literally every week, can I write a book with your mother? Can I do this. And finally, I was kind of sick of it, too. So I said, you know, maybe it’s a good idea. Maybe we should talk about this way, agreed to let David work with my mom. And they did a book which just happened out here on grief, and grieving in which she further clarified and David helped clarify the five stages of grief. And again, this book is like in the top 20 or so sellers, you know, of all grief books, even now, you know, 1617 years after mom died. And sometimes it sells better than on death and dying. is still 17 years after she does. So the book came out in 2005, I think. But it’s still selling extremely well. And we’re still selling it. I think just in the last few months, we sold it in Vietnamese, Cantonese, in Mongolian. In Thai, I mean, it’s just like, it has a life of its own. It’s just unbelievable.

Victoria Volk 1:07:29
Now it’s almost it’s as if her work has a life of its own. Now it’s

Ken Ross 1:07:33
your soul to work in Farsi for the first time. And it just wow me just keeps on spreading out.

Victoria Volk 1:07:42
And you can you share quickly too on the death and die on death and dying her that first book you had mentioned to me before we started recording where how many languages and I just found it very fascinating. The fact that you shared about

Ken Ross 1:07:57
Yeah, love about this book is that is both in Hebrew and Arabic. We sold Arabic for the first time about six months ago in Saudi Arabia. So they have a psychology book in Arabic and Hebrew at the same time is just incredible. It’s really unusual. And it just speaks to the university ality of the language and message of what’s held in this book, which is not just about the stages, of course, it’s about the experiences that Diane go through, and find this language that we can have between the doctors and the patients, and make it easy to have a conversation where there’s not normally a common language between medical staff and and laymen who are dying or their families. So the new edition, the 50th anniversary edition also includes her testimony before Congress in 1972. she testified before the Committee on aging, that the way people die in this country was disgusting, and unacceptable, and we had to do something about it. So it’s just amazing to have this little Swiss hillbilly lecture in the Senate. how people should die in this country. The whole whole testimony is now in the 50th anniversary edition, which has the blue cover.

Victoria Volk 1:09:12
And I’m not sure anything has really changed. You know, I mean,

Ken Ross 1:09:16
it’s happened slowly. We have the death doulas now we didn’t have Yes, that’s true. That’s true years ago. So that is a sign of progress. Yeah, it’s so slow, but it’s, you know, it’s kind of glacier. Like,

Victoria Volk 1:09:28
is that what gives you the most hope for her work?

Ken Ross 1:09:31
Well, the fact that you know, we have four new languages in one year that we never had in 50 years is just incredible. Like, you know, I think after 50 years, the thing will have died a peaceful death. But, you know, the fact that in this last year for the first time we published in Albanian, Arabic, Farsi and Mongolian You know, that’s amazing for a book that’s half a century old. And that, you know, we keep having new foundations pop up around the world. And have this beautiful honor. So Elizabeth, and people wanting to, you know, start like book clubs in Mongolia. And we just got contacted by a group in Kenya that wants to do something with the foundation. And, you know, I really see her legacy is very much alive and appreciated, and some people are stuck on the five stages, there’s realize that, you know, Elizabeth work is very broad spectrum, and universal, you know, culturally and religiously and everything wise, it just speaks to people. And something, the way Elizabeth lived, her life just inspires people, because so many people write about the wheel of life and say, just radically transformed our life and they were suicidal. But after they read the book, they want to devote their life to hospice, or the dying, or they want to live again, it’s just, you know, amazing that letters just keep on coming in for decades and decades.

Victoria Volk 1:10:55
That’s amazing. I know, as a grief recovery specialist, and we kind of talked about this briefly before, but because there are people that poopoo, the five stages, and, and there might be some grief recovery specialists out there listening to this, that maybe were taught that I don’t know, but I personally wasn’t my training, what I was taught was that the five stages were about people who are going through terminal illness. And that’s when, you know, that’s when she was conducting that work, and that it was misinterpreted to be about,

Ken Ross 1:11:25
right, that’s a common thing people say, but

Victoria Volk 1:11:28
but I would add, it’s not, I would not deny that all of those things that she mentions don’t happen, like I absolutely full heartedly. And I think any grief recovery specialist would agree that there are emotions and feelings that someone goes through sometimes in the same moment, you know, you just, you’re angry, and you’re sad, and you’re all the things. You know, it’s that’s the complexity of grief.

Ken Ross 1:11:56
Right? So here 1974. In our second book, she said, I hope I’m making it clear that patients do not necessarily follow a classical pattern from the stage of denial to the stage of anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Most of my patients have exhibited multiple stages simultaneously, right? So here’s the saying is not linear. So right. Now, if you look up the Google critiques complaints about the five stages there, many of them are, they’re not linear. Well, she said this herself in black and white in a book. And then here in the same book, she says, Please tie in the stages of dying with loss of sight, meaning that they apply to other loss and change events. Right. And this later became the Kubler Ross change, which is used, you know, by 1000s of companies, and nobody complains about that. Identify, you know, a reaction to loss and change, which could be applied to grief. And yet, maybe not, but it seems to be applied to everything.

Victoria Volk 1:12:58
I think it’s just the context in which people refer to it. And how people interpret it think people put their phone filler words in, you know, like, instead of really looking at, like what you just read, people hear what they want, right? I think that’s really what it comes down to people are going to hear what they want. And

Ken Ross 1:13:17
yes, it was like, while she’s writing at the stages of dying, but I think within months, she changed it to the stages of grief or stages of loss. So I mean, she was also learning about it as she was writing about it. And I think, I mean, I think within 12 months, she was saying, okay, it’s not just that I’ve realized it’s applies to other people on things. So technically, yes, but I mean, by a few months. So I mean, are you going to hold her? Like you’re inventing the light bulb? Like, well, a light bulb was only meant to be a light bulb? And then six months later, it’s used for something else does that mean, they were wrong? It’s like, no, they were still learning. Right? Yes, originally, in a six month period of mean, but over the last 50 years, you can hold her to that six month period, like, you know, you want to be a technocrat, yes. set up for that. But for a very brief moment, and even though boxes already beginning to identify, you know that the families are going through it, if you look on page 162, you’ll see she’s already beginning to refer to other people from through the stages.

Victoria Volk 1:14:26
Right? And they’re not stages, right, though? That’s not Yeah, that’s, I think that’s that word,

Ken Ross 1:14:33
inverted comments to say, Hey, I’m using this word, but I mean, don’t hang me on this word, right? And that’s what they’re doing, or phases or periods or whatever. It’s, it’s just a way to describe something. It’s not, you know, a I’m from Switzerland, and I don’t have a great command of the English language. And be you know, I’ve never written a book before. So don’t hang me on like, every nuance of every word, right? I’m trying to have, you know, give you a tool. To build a conversation around this thing that no one’s talking

Victoria Volk 1:15:03
about, so which she did, yeah, ultimately, we’re still debating it.

Ken Ross 1:15:07
50 years. Like that there’s 10s of 1000s. People said, I went through the five stages says, hey, there’s something to it. The fact that it’s the most popular brief theory in the world 50 years later says, hey, there’s got to be something to it. So it’s not the only one. It’s not right. It’s not wrong. It’s just a tool, you can use it, don’t use it, just don’t get hooked into it being like this, like written in stone is just a tool to begin framing a conversation. So that’s all it is.

Victoria Volk 1:15:40
You know, when we don’t ask like, Oh, well, what stage are you in? You’re asking, How are you feeling? Right? You know,

Ken Ross 1:15:47
people do say that. Really? Well.

Victoria Volk 1:15:50
Yeah. I guess I haven’t had people on my podcast to talk about grief, their grief. They haven’t been asked that like, Oh, well, what stage are you in? But do people probably say behind their back? Or what stage? Do you think she’s in? You know, probably.

Ken Ross 1:16:05
Yeah. I mean, if you look at any number of dozens TV shows,

Victoria Volk 1:16:08
like, Oh, for sure. like

Ken Ross 1:16:11
Michael Douglas, Alan Watts, or like, what was it the bucket list? Right. Morgan Friedman. Yeah. having a conversation. What stage are you in? denial?

Victoria Volk 1:16:22
Yeah, certainly, and TV and things like that. But I would hope in like real conversation. I don’t know that that is necessarily that

Ken Ross 1:16:29
within that projects, like, Oh, well, maybe I should know what stage I’m in. Right? Yes, there. Yeah. Morgan Freeman talking about it, you know?

Victoria Volk 1:16:37
Yeah, well, oh, I shouldn’t be I should be out of anger by now. And on to, you know, denial or

Ken Ross 1:16:45
at all whatever. Nicholson said he’s in denial. What stage Am I in? Yeah.

Victoria Volk 1:16:49
Crazy how that has just evolved over time. And I imagine where we could probably sit and have the same conversation, maybe 510 years from now?

Ken Ross 1:16:59
Yes, for sure.

Victoria Volk 1:17:01
What has your grief taught you? I mean, because you’ve lost obviously, you lost your mom and your dad, and you’ve lost people and throughout your life, and what has your grief taught you?

Ken Ross 1:17:14
Yeah, it’s just a reminder that, you know, time is finite, everything is finite. Every living thing is finite. And everything you’re doing is finite. So enjoy it, love it, absorb it, appreciate it, but just realize that

Victoria Volk 1:17:27
he got let go and roll the

Ken Ross 1:17:28
dice over everything, including yourself. So yeah, just realize that everything is transitory in life. And don’t get you know, it’s one thing my father said to me when I was young This is the people who succeed the best are the people realize that everything in life is transitory, right? You know, whatever you’re comfortable with. Don’t get too comfortable with it. Because people succeed when they learn to roll with changes and everything changes everything. You know, the love of your life, your pets, your whatever, your your health, your youth, your job, everything is transitory. So you know that people succeed who realize that, you know, he can’t hang on to it too tightly.

Victoria Volk 1:18:08
Sorry, good advice. So where do you see yourself 510 years from now? Where would you like to see yourself? 510 years from now? Where would you like to see the foundation? I have like three questions in there.

Ken Ross 1:18:22
Um, I’d like to see us have a bigger staff. So I get some help, of course. And, you know, I’d love to have like 30 chapters around the world, and the staff to support it, not just me. And I’d like to see Stanford continued to evolve that digital library, because I gave them 64 boxes of material. So there’s tons of tapes that have never been transcribed really made public. So I just released a few on our YouTube channel. But there’s a lot of stuff they said they want to go what they say they call it they want to go gold mining in my mom’s paperwork and and find amazing things and they are they want to devote just a person does full time to kind of mine through Elizabeth’s archives.

Victoria Volk 1:19:08
Wow. That’d be a cool job.

Ken Ross 1:19:11

Victoria Volk 1:19:12
Is there anything else you would like to share? Either about your life, your mom’s work? Anything else? What do you want people to know the most?

Ken Ross 1:19:23
Well, I feel like I’m doing what I want like five years. Like I’m doing it now. Like there’s no like I’m aiming towards like, like I said, I want to do everything now. So I’m trying to grow the foundation. I’m trying to preserve our work for future generations, trying to kind of fight them Miss information about the five stages. try and do this feature movie on mom because that will help younger generations get to know her who didn’t grow up with her in the press so much and in honestly my mom’s legacy in a way that’s realistic and describes what she really did. And that kind of wide breadth of her Work not just the silly five stages. Yeah. So and you know, I, I went to 101 countries so now maybe like 125 135. So, but there’s no particular number I’m in competition with my cousin. He’s at 104. So the competitions on Oh funny. Want to keep doing it until my back goes out

Victoria Volk 1:20:22
well where can people find you if they want to either your personal work and also your mom’s work?

Ken Ross 1:20:29
Well, we have numerous websites and numerous languages we have websites in English, French, Flemish, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, we have maybe a dozen Facebook pages again in various languages. We have aka Dr. Elisabeth Kubler Ross foundation in Chile, in Argentina, or Uruguay and Peru, Guatemala, Mexico, Japan, Belgium, French, hopefully starting Colombia soon and so numerous websites just type in Elisabeth Kubler Ross Foundation, and pick your language. We’re on Instagram Of course, and we have that in three languages. We’re unlinked in we are on Pinterest, and I am on Instagram Kinross, photography, and Ken rose photography calm, and I’m on LinkedIn. And I think we do everything except tik tok so far. We draw the line Snapchat, yeah, Snapchat. We don’t do that either. And then we you know, we’re working with other groups. We’re working with, like Colin Perry, you know, her American fan apologist. She does some really interesting work. We’re doing a conference with her called the nature of grief. Talking about our nature and grief combines like how our flowers used in Santa otology. You know, or trying to not, you know, not just do old school, but do new school too. And kozun some great work we’re doing. Yeah, I know more interesting things with different universities around the world. We’re trying to some project with Stanford with St. Christopher’s the press hospice in England. Oh, and a number of different people. Yeah, when US, Canada, Mexico, I think we’ve got over 50 collaborations going. So it’s a wide world out there. So trying to get the word out there and be part of the conversation. You know, there’s other great groups like reimagine and Michael hubbs group is great. You know, the death cafe’s the death over dinner. A lot of great groups doing interesting work out there. The green burial council trying to bury people in a more ecologically sound manner. So we’re beginning to work with them. Leaving a lot of stuff happening. We’re doing our education series in the fall. We have people usually from about 30 different countries attend that. We’ve had interesting speakers like William Warden IRA Byock, some my mom’s workshop staff, Joanne cacciatore. Do you know about her and the Miss foundation? She does amazing work, you should have her on your on your call. She has a grief farm up near Sedona. And she rescues animals and she finds there’s this beautiful bond between rescued animals and people going through grief especially when they’ve lost children. And somehow they really attach on to rescued animals. There’s like a shared grief and pain. So she does amazing work and she is a Brainiac. I love chatting with her. She is so wicked smart. She did a book called bearing the unbearable, beautiful book, got great reviews. I definitely recommend that book to anybody. And she was principally with parents who have lost children meaning a lot of great people out there. I’m doing a project with open to hope next week or shooting a video in Los Angeles. Okay, so Gloria and Heidi Horsley and they’ve they opened hope channel on YouTube.

Victoria Volk 1:24:12
It’s just amazing to me that I pinned you down for this conversation. So again, thank you again so much for your time and sharing about your mom’s work and about your life and your amazing insights into what you’ve learned from her from your mom and what you’ve applied from that in your own life.

Ken Ross 1:24:36

Victoria Volk 1:24:37
Yeah, the dice theory. I love it. Yeah. I will put I guess I can’t put all of those links to everything in the show notes but I will definitely put where to contact you. station

Ken Ross 1:24:51
with them and Facebook and the website. Yeah. Oh, and if you can also if people want to learn more about mom radio lab, just did a piece National Public Radio’s radio lab. Yes, I’ve been radiolab Kubler Ross, they have an hour long piece that just came out last week. That’s a great piece. That’s kind of young hip, and I know how to drive it. This is very different.

Victoria Volk 1:25:15
I think you mentioned earlier, it’s about 91%. accurate.

Ken Ross 1:25:18
Yeah, it’s like, you know, the MTV version of Elizabeth has been trendy and irreverent. But they get pretty close. Right? You know,

Victoria Volk 1:25:27
okay. I will link to that one in the show notes

Ken Ross 1:25:29
and argue with a few odds and ends. But what they say the Mick Jagger of death, had trouble dying herself. I’m like, well, she had no trouble, you know, dying. It’s like the stroke part was hard. It’s hard for anybody, but she had no trouble of death. It’s just being in pain for nine years, and not being able to work or have fun. You’re going to be a little angry.

Victoria Volk 1:25:50
Right, especially living the life she had led, right? I mean,

Ken Ross 1:25:53
wild overachiever. So to go from 10,000% you know, 1% is hard. Yeah. And, but I really like the you know, Rachel did a great a great PSA, I have no issues with it. I really like it a lot.

Victoria Volk 1:26:09
It just makes you wonder like just being a human being. It just makes you wonder someone who has sparked such an amazing conversation to have about grief and opened up the conversation in the first place. And all the work that she’s done, and then that’s what her last nine years were like, it’s disheartening. Even for me, you know, to know that that’s what that was like for her.

Ken Ross 1:26:34
Take a look at that Oprah interview on YouTube. And you’ll see she still has a lot of spark left. And even though she was retired and paralyzed, she still had like four books. Yeah, that’s true. couldn’t quite Stop, stop.

Victoria Volk 1:26:45
Well, that’s true. And that’s again, that’s speaks to don’t put yourself in a box. Like don’t limit yourself. And I think that’s one of the greatest messages today on this podcast from you and from her life is it can’t teach wrote the only limitations you have are the ones that you put on yourself.

Ken Ross 1:27:02
Absolutely. I mean, I didn’t study photography, but I went out and shot 101 country isn’t. And I did endless number of wacky things.

Victoria Volk 1:27:11
Do you think though that grief, in part was her teacher in that like, really, too, because what I believe is that grief is the the illuminator like it really shows us the contrast of what we don’t want that we really see what we do want

Ken Ross 1:27:29
the equalizer and how much how much money or fame or whatever we have, we’re all gonna die. Exactly. You know, we all end up at the same base their range, what do we do with this little short time we have, you know, make it seem like 100 lifetimes, you know, if you live it, right, you can make Yeah, I feel like I’ve lived 100 lifetimes already with all the stuff I’ve done. So yeah, I’m just a wee while Wow, that was amazing. Like, I have no complaints like, lucky me.

Victoria Volk 1:27:56
I’m a I’m just a wee bit jealous. But again, it’s accepting where we are, in our lives like exactly where we are. And this is where I’m meant to be as a mom of three kids. And National Geographic just wasn’t my calling. I guess, when I was a kid.

Ken Ross 1:28:15
I didn’t get married, because I knew I wanted to travel. And I didn’t want to be an absentee parent, like my mother was not that I have an issue with my mother. But I knew like, you know, I was different. I didn’t mind it. But I didn’t want to assume that my kids wouldn’t mind me not being home, because I really had to do that. So I said, I’m going to go photograph 101 countries, so and they have all the experiences with golf.

Victoria Volk 1:28:40
Since you went there, and since you mentioned that, can I ask them if that lies last nine years was really kind of a gift for you, in that you had nothing but time with your mom to kind of connect in a deeper way.

Ken Ross 1:28:53
It was ironic because you know, for the first nine years, she was regular mom, and then she left to do our stuff. And for the last nine years, I was her parent, right? So it’s kind of ironic that nine years here and nine years there, and in between were like weaved in and out and hung out in you know, funky places around the world. So but last night, he was Yeah, I got to spend, you know, all the time with her even though she complains I was never around much. But her ideas like not much is like, you know, three, four times a week. I’m like mom, I you know, I have a huge pile of your mail that I’m working on at home. It’s like, I don’t care about that I want some tea or I want to go shopping or I want to go somebody has to do this stuff and

Victoria Volk 1:29:42
the problems with leaving a legacy right?

Ken Ross 1:29:44
Yes. So like I’m gonna inherit it one day, my sister and I so you know, I’d like to inherit something that’s kind of his structure and I can digest not a chaos. Wow. So I mean, I have like 7000 emails right now. And hundreds of messages. And this is you know, 17 years after she died, so.

Victoria Volk 1:30:06
And I’m so grateful you answered mine. So again,

Ken Ross 1:30:11
oh, my pleasure. It’s nice to hear and smell the roses. Yeah.

Victoria Volk 1:30:16
Well, thank you again so much. I could just hang out all day. I really could. Would you? Sure? Oh, yay. Okay. I’m holding you to it. Sounds good. All right. Thank you again. And remember, when you unleash your heart, you unleash your life. Much love. From my heart to yours. Thank you for listening. If you liked this episode, please share it because Sharing is caring. And until next time, give and share compassion by being hurt with yours. And if you’re hurting, know that what you’re feeling is normal and natural. Much love my friend.


Ep 67 | Marty Cooper

Marty Cooper | Behind the Curtain of the Inventor of the Mobile Phone



What does the wizard behind the one invention that has transformed society around the globe have to say about optimism, failure, and learning?

Marty Cooper has been coined the name the “Father of the Cell Phone” but, there’s more to him than being an inventor of one of the most societal-altering devices.

It took ten years to see his dream come to fruition, and it nearly didn’t happen. In our conversation, we explore optimism, failure, the importance of learning, and so much more.

We get a peek behind the curtain in this episode where Marty shares his thoughts about technological advances, his prediction for the future of how we will power our lives, advice for all of us regarding privacy (in terms of how we use our cell phones), and what he believes is the threat to our civilization.

What does Marty have to say about kids and cell phone safety, the body being a complete system (at 92 years old, he’s learned a thing or two), learning from others, thoughts about grief, what breaks his heart and what gives him hope for the future? You’ll just have to listen!

This is a lighthearted conversation, filled with optimism and wisdom from someone who had a dream and never gave up. Perhaps how he lives his life today is an indicator of why Marty Cooper became the “Father of the Cell Phone?”



Victoria Volk 0:05
Thank you for tuning in to grieving voices. Today I’m very excited to share this conversation with my guest, Marty Cooper. He is the father of the mobile, cellular phone. And, Marty, thank you so much for being here. I have great pleasure. I, at the time of this recording, it’s been a few weeks since I’ve seen you on CBS Sunday morning. And I was just very struck by your story. And found myself very just very curious about you interested in your story, your personal story, what led you to become an inventor? And just I really selfishly just wanted to learn more about you. So thank you so much for agreeing to I emailed you. And you answered, and you agreed, and I was just take, I’m tickled pink, thank you so much.

Marty Cooper 1:08
What a nice guy. My pleasure, right, I like to share my story with everybody in the face, if you’re interested just is an ego trip.

Victoria Volk 1:22
Thank you so much. So I’m going to actually read, I’m going to start with the description of your book, which is cutting the cord, the cell phone has transformed humanity, which is about the obstacles you had to overcome inventing the cell phone. And it says that you’re one of Time magazine’s top 100 inventors in history, and that you share your inside story of the cell phone, and how it changed the world and a view of where it’s headed, which I’m very interested in hearing. So while at Motorola in the 1970s, you invented the first handheld mobile phone, but the cell phone as we know it today almost didn’t happen. And that’s really what kind of your book is about. Maybe let’s start there, and then we’ll kind of even go further back.

Marty Cooper 2:16
Sure. Well, we’re talking about the late 1960s, which doesn’t seem like so long ago, because I, I was a an executive at Motorola at the time. So it’s it’s not as though I was a child. And yet, those are really primitive times. We didn’t have personal computers, we didn’t have digital cameras. And the internet had not been invented yet believe. They didn’t have integrated circuits like we have in our cell phones today. But they did have careful. The only problem was like our phones are terrible. You have fuel in the car phone, and you wanted to make a phone call during the day, there were so many people competing with you for this radio channel that we run, that sometimes you’d have to wait a half hour just to get a line, if you could get one at all. So we had a bell system, you’re too young to remember the bell system, the system used to be the monopoly. If you wanted a telephone, practically anywhere in the world, not only states, you have to go to the phone company. And sometimes they would even sell you a phone you had to read it through. And there was one color black. And the definitely at that time. Most of the homes have just a single phone, we had a phone in the kitchen. So we’re really talking about ancient times. But the Bell System came up with a way of using the radio channels over and over again. So you can have more capacity in a city, you can have more than just 100 people getting service in the city. And so the nation that we’re promoting this wonderful service, except they didn’t believe was going to be very big. And they have a study done. And their study said there were only going to be a billion people ever using a cell phone. Well, it turns out they were right. That’s about the maximum number of people that ever use the cell phone in the car. Because we knew at that time that people are basically fundamentally naturally mobile. And now you know that because you you’re on board of the airport tomorrow. You get the feeling like nobody’s where they want to be everything’s going somewhere else, though. And here are the after being trapped in our homes by that copper wire for 100 years. The Bell System is telling us Well, we’re going to solve your problem, we’re going to free you and trap you into a car didn’t make any sense to us. And we got a radio made two way radios that you can hold in your hand, we had watched how companies revolutionized how they ran their businesses because they don’t talk to people moving around. So we went out a very big company at the time, at&t was $22 billion in revenue, so we were just a billion dollars. And so we took the Bell System on, we went to our, the FCC, who matters, these radio channels that will drag him up, and tell them that we have a better way to do it. And by 1973, it looks like the FCC is about to make a decision, and we’re scared to death, they’re gonna do the wrong thing. And if they made the wrong decision, we would be stuck with cartel bones for at least 10 or 20 years. So at that time, is when I decided, you know, the only way you can convince people of something is to demonstrate the real thing. And so I pulled the team together, and we made a cell phone. And the guys actually built a cell phone in three months, we had enough technology around our company. And I had to bend a lot of people that are behind their backs to get him to stop what they were doing. And working on this crazy idea. In April 3 1973, in front of the New York Hilton on Sixth Avenue, I was interviewed by somebody just like you were doing to the now. And I was talking on a cell phone. So that, and 10 years later, fully figured out. That’s how long it took to get the government agency to make up their minds. And they did decide in favor of competition. So it wasn’t going to be just the Bell System. And the industry was going to decide what the right technology was. And of course, we picked personal phones, handheld phones. And you know what the result is? There are more portable phones in the world today than there are people. Is that an amazing thing. And it’s also true in the United States were cell phones in the USA, there are people in the US. And the number of wired phones, believe it or not, is going down, down, down. And there are only a little over 50 million wired phones in the United States today, compared to by 350 million cell phones.

Victoria Volk 8:02
I imagine it’s such an incredible story to me and I I just I love inventors the story of inventors anyway, but what you did, though, has, do you ever just like sit back and pinch yourself? Like, did I really do that? Do you feel like you’re living a dream? Sometimes?

Marty Cooper 8:25
I do what except I said, I feel like I’ve agreed most of my life. So you know, I’ve always I like to think of myself as being a futurist. I’m not a very good executive. We proved out at Motorola even though we’re at a multi billion dollar division, by the time that I left Motorola, but I like to think about new things. I love to take things apart and put them back together. And the reason I know so much about the future iskysoft I spend so much time there. I love fantasy. I read science fiction. I have grown since I was a as long as I could remember since I was a little boy, five years old. I was just desperately interested in everything technical, I want to know how things work. I could take anything apart. I couldn’t always put it back together again. But I always knew I was going to be some kind of a technical person ended there. Or a scientist and and I guess I pretty much related. But yeah, but I have to tell you that, you know, inventing is not the only thing. It’s great fun to come up with new ideas. And it’s a little harder to come up with ideas that are really work. And it’s even harder to actually make some work. Yeah. So there were many, many people that are involved in creating the cell phone, the cell phone, the the equipment and the takes to make a cell phone works. Least So sites all around the city. So I would guess, to build today’s multi trillion dollar industry took 10s of 1000s of people.

Victoria Volk 10:13
I just have to tell you to the day that I got that email from you, that you would be on my podcast was the day that I got my kids. Their first cell phone plans. Oh, is that right? Yeah. Ironically, that same day. Older your children? Seven, well, 16, almost 15 and 12. Wow,

Marty Cooper 10:37
why are you a disciplined mother? My granddaughter, of course, it was a special case, she, she was going to school at a school bus when she was seven years old. And we were afraid she could get stuck waiting for the bus. And nobody showed up together. So we got our cell phone just for that purpose when he was seven years old. But your children will very quickly know more about cell phones and either of us.

Victoria Volk 11:10
Oh, my gosh. And you know, I find that it’s really made my my life a lot easier to and there’s, you know, but I do have a question that kind of leads into that part of the conversation is that? Did you anticipate it because I imagine, while you’re obviously a very strategic person to I am also a strategic person, you can kind of see around the band, you can see kind of see around the next corner? Did you anticipate that with the cell phone that we would have so much? Because there’s a lot of negative to, you know, and parents would share that frustration that sometimes the cell phone is like a, you know, a sore spot for some families and homes and with their kids and stuff. Have you ever? Yeah, what do you say to that? Let’s start there.

Marty Cooper 12:07
We’ll have shortly certainly there are negatives to every technology that comes along. And the only thing I say about that is I looked enough in the US. And of these developed countries, I look at places like Africa, India, Mexico, where people really struggle, just to live with a cell phone is revolutionizing those countries. It’s it’s reducing poverty significantly. It’s bringing health care to villages that have never had a doctor before. It’s for allowing collaboration so you can build up their entire economies. So some of these things that we’re going through now. And I observe the same thing that you do. You. You go into a restaurant or you look here, some kids having lunch, and they were all sitting there looking at their phone and said, I can’t do it. But I have ultimate confidence that you will be in it with a cell phone. So no, really, it’s only been about 20 years since it was widely. And since everybody out there, maybe less than that for teenagers. It takes time to figure these things out. Sometimes it takes a generation to do that. But the advantages, the things that the cell phone allows us to do, that we couldn’t do before way overwhelm the disadvantages, at least in my viewpoint. So Pentagon, have conflicts with people, we’re going to work with work. And

Victoria Volk 13:45
I love that. And I think part of the thing too, when I was watching you on CBS Sunday morning is I just I loved your energy and your optimism. You are just so optimistic. And so what do you see for the future? With the cell phone? I mean, because it’s changing our clothes, versus like everything is adapting kind of to the cell phone. So what do you what do you see next? What do you envision?

Marty Cooper 14:13
Start off with your comment about optimism. You’re right, I do have a very positive outlook on life. And people laugh with me a lot about that. But I look at the facts. And the reality is that society, all of us are getting better. And we are better now than we ever have been in every respect. We live longer, we are healthier. We are richer than any time in history. All the curves are going up. There are bumps up and down. And we have disasters like the pandemics and other things that come along. But on the average, we are better off now than we ever have been. And there’s no reason to believe why that can happen. And the cellphone, not by itself, but it’s going to be an important contributor to this. And that’s why I emphasize so much not to how much fun we’re having in the developed countries, with social media, and all these other things, with with the social media, and the games that the kids are playing is doing is making us familiar with an extraordinary valuable tool. So when these kids that are sitting around the rest, not talking to each other, and by the way, they do end up talking to each other, when they grow up, they are going to be so good at using these tools, they will put us to shame. And they’re going to do everything more efficiently. And when you do things more efficiently everybody benefits. And that has been demonstrated, as I mentioned before, in Africa, the There are, of course, the cell phone has as the LeapFrog to the wireless phone, or the anybody ever had, where were wired phones in Africa. And one thing that they did, they introduced a weight of managing money. Now, that doesn’t sound very important to us, we have banks. And it turns out that poor people at Africa can’t do that. They can’t move money around the country, they can’t save money. And somebody introduced a system called m pesa. That allows them to do all of those things to save to transfer money. And to do that just with their cell phone. And so they ask, and other things that have happened to make things more efficient, have at least according to the United Nations, Sonny, and move over a billion people out of power, severe poverty in the last 20 years. So definitely that kind of thing is what it really is the basis of my optimism. And the fact that there are villages in Mexico, where they have never had a doctor or never will have a doctor. And they now have the ability because they’ve got somebody in the village that’s got a cell phone, that will route the cell phone held by a better a doctor in Mexico City, and fried somebody’s eyes, in this little village and bring them medical treatment they could never have imagined before. So it’s those kinds of things that are the basis of my optimism. And you can make all the fun of the work. Stand by it.

Victoria Volk 17:30
I wouldn’t make fun of you. And actually, it makes me think of the idea of where your attention is, is where it’s like where you put your attention and focus. That’s what you’ll see. Right? So if you are focused and have your attention on all the negative things, cell phones have brought to us, that’s all you’ll see. Right?

Marty Cooper 17:57
That’s a very, that’s a very wise thing. You just set it, I absolutely agree with you. I want to tell you, I know it’s slightly off the subject. But the most important drive in my life, and what I think that should be the drive that everybody else’s life is learning. And the reason is kind of obvious if you think about it. Because most kids as an example, when they get out of school, the only thing they think about is getting a job making money. And there, there’s a lot to be said to having a lot of money and being able to do all the things you want. But it turns out that after you’ve accumulated enough money to do the basic things, and maybe a few steps beyond that, it turns out that the gratification you get from more money kind of starts waiting. And it turns out money is not the only thing in life. And the only thing you can keep doing the rest of your life that brings you satisfaction is to learn to have new ideas, to generate new ideas all by yourself. Now, you know, that’s the biggest thrill of my life is to think about something in a way that I have never thought of before. It might not be original, because somebody else probably thought about, but maybe they didn’t. So and you never ever get tired of having new ideas, and about learning new things. So I put a great deal of emphasis on practicing learning. Now, why do you ask? You didn’t ask but I’m presuming. Why do you have to practice? But it turns out they’ve done some studies, scientific studies. They are what they call rats, psychologists who determined that the act of learning is something that has to be practiced if you stop learning Just like with your muscles, you lose the ability to learn your ability to learn after five. So I can’t think of anything more scary than that, that that you get so self satisfied, so happy with your position in life, if you don’t think you need to know anything more than what you know now, and you do that for a few years. And it turns out when you want to learn something new, you don’t have the ability. Is that scary? Or what?

Victoria Volk 20:29
Absolutely, absolutely. I think that, like our greatest asset is is our minds. And where are we? Again, it comes back to where we put our attention to. So do you want to focus on growth and learning and advancing yourself in your life? Or do you want to focus on that one, the sad, depressing things that are going wrong, either in your life or in the world around you? Yeah. And so where does your optimism come from? Have you always since a child just had the sense of wonder and optimism,

Marty Cooper 21:14
but I suppose the hardest thing to do is to be objective about yourself.

Victoria Volk 21:20
That’s true,

Marty Cooper 21:20
I have absolutely no idea. I was blessed with a wonderful parents, my parents struggled, they started out in what is now the Ukraine, at that time, it was Russia, they were suppressed to the most awful ways. And they managed to work their way to Canada and ultimately to the US. They worked hard all their lives, but managed to, to come up with a comfortable life. For all of us. My mother was a dynamo. She never stopped moving. She was a charmer, she could talk to anybody. So I see some great advantages. And I, I would hope that the only thing that I could do useful in life, is to inspire other people to be like my mother was.

Victoria Volk 22:18
So I take it, then all of your ideas were nurtured. And that aspect of yourself was something that was nurtured.

Marty Cooper 22:32
I put it all down to luck, if he should i do is I’m not smart enough to figure out why I am what I am. But people have asked me you get off even to your life over again, what we do different. And I have to tell you, I can’t think of anything, you change one thing. In the past, there are unintended consequences. So I just think I’m very lucky. And I think it’s a very effective, almost all of us are lucky to be around. And today to enjoy all these wonderful things that our society has to do, including you and I talking to each other virtually as though we were right next to each other, isn’t it? Oh, it is just now less than a half hour ago. And you could say that we’re friends, we have exchanged emotions and ideas. So I think oh, that’s fantastic. And all these kids take all their for granted.

Victoria Volk 23:43
I love that. And I made me think of to how even even today I was thinking about our conversation coming up. I just thought, you know, I because I would always I would as a kid, like I wanted to invent something like if I could just invent something. But I would call myself a creator. I’m a creative person. And people that’s how people most people describe me as is as creative. And what is invention but creativity in action, right? And so even just this podcast, it was an idea. I created it. I invented it. I invented greevey voices. And so it struck me today I am an inventor, I may not have invented the cell phone. But I’ve invented other things. And I think that’s where so many of us kind of forget that as creators are people who create things or bring about ideas into fruition and into their world and into their life for others to enjoy for others to participate like this podcast. The microphone I’m using the computer like all of it, like creativity is invention, you know, in inaction and so I would just my my thing I just message I would like to share with people is that even though you may not be coined an inventor of something like yourself, I think if you created anything, you are an inventor. So what do you say to that?

Marty Cooper 25:19
I say that you’re exactly right. Although I have to put some boundaries on them, every crazy idea that I might have is not an invention. That’s true. In order to be an invention, there, it needs to be a couple of other attributes. It has to be buildable to be an invention, and it has to be useful. So when you talk about what you achieved with your is this, what is it? Are we doing what’s called a podcast? Yeah, you do going one step further, because you don’t have your podcast you so somebody is getting some benefit, at least I am, because you ask creative questions. But, but you have to also execute it. And that’s a whole step further from the inventing. So I would not only compliment yourself on bigger and better which you are, but you’re also a builder. And we need both kinds. And it’s very nice when one person could do both of them. In my case, I was the creative guy. My guys were all creative as well at a different level. But some of the things that my team did, I couldn’t imagine doing I could have done them 20 years earlier when I was sitting on a bench working, but it takes all kinds of skills, to do modern kinds of things. And everybody, at least at a technical field has to be not only creative, they have to be able to put these things to work to actually do things with their hands.

Victoria Volk 27:03
So what was the pivotal moment in your life? Were really everything changed? Or was this like just a natural progression of what how your life took shape?

Marty Cooper 27:16
While you know you, you know you were going to talk about my book at some point. So I’ll bring this up that go back, right. That’s one of the points that I made in my book is there is no eureka moment, there is no one sudden flash of light and and the wisdom of the ages, suddenly, in a lifetime, that just builds the experience one experience after another. Sorry, I believe before you’re born, you start experiencing things and you’re learning. And that’s why I keep bringing that word up all the time about about learning. I couldn’t, there was no way that I could have thought about something as important as a cell phone. Early in my career, I didn’t have the background, I didn’t have the technology, understanding. So I expressed in my book and some really beginning chapters above how it takes the progression of increasingly complex thoughts as to build up the capability to do something more important. So yeah. And the other thing that I don’t just say advice for other people, I’ve never had a plan for my life. All I knew is that I was going to be an engineer, but I had no idea what kind of work I was going to do, what fields I was going to go into. And somehow the world has taken care of me. And I am so grateful for that. But I can’t express it. Which is why I say I’m so so lucky. I have there have been things in my life that have been drivers. But we are never capable of doing total planning for the future. You just have to build up all the capabilities you can and become the person you want to be. And hope that you’ll be lucky too. And I hope you are. There’s no doubt in my mind that you’re going to do great. Well, you’re you’re just have to do this podcast. I don’t know. You certainly are not making a fortune. I’m doing podcasts for most of them. 100 of them. Say sir. In fact, I was amazed to find out how many podcasts there are the world today. But it is hundreds of 1000s right?

Victoria Volk 29:49
Um, I don’t even know. Maybe even millions. Yeah.

Marty Cooper 29:55
So somebody must be better for you. You guessed it. Back from people that watch your podcast to tell you that they have learned something new or that they’ve been entertained, or

Victoria Volk 30:10
occasionally, occasionally, sometimes I feel like it’s crickets, you know, but it comes, I just I think that’s a good point here to say, or a good spot to say that it’s how you constantly consistently just had just showed up for yourself to not give up like how, like you didn’t give up? Yeah, 10 years it took. I imagine that had some grief in it thinking like, did you ever have this thought in the back your mind? Like if this doesn’t, if this doesn’t happen? Like all this blood, sweat and tears, you know, you put because I know what that’s like? Not to your extent, of course, but to put your heart and soul into something and it bust or it not come through the way you hoped. Right? What do you say to that?

Marty Cooper 31:06
Well, you know, like my parents went through that they have failures in their lifetime. And they actually had a grocery store and what effective failed and another one and Thunder Bay that failed in a water business in Chicago that failed, before they finally found something that they could do. with sheer luck, I think that they fell into this. So it was a remarkable coincidence that when I was in the Navy, US Navy for four years, when I got a Navy job, and then I was approached by Motorola. And amazingly enough, the founder of Motorola had gone through that same experience. He has started his three different businesses and have two of them totally failed. disastrously. And so he was like, put up a plaque in the lobby of this fantastic building. At the time that I was there. Many years after the founding. On the plaque, they put out something that you said, Do not fear failure, reach out. And I took that seriously a Motorola, sometimes, to a fault. Sometimes I’ve reached out a little too far. And I had my share of failures. Sometimes I will emphasize in the future much more than the president when you’re running a business, that’s a very healthy thing to do. people depend on your profits to keep going. But that was one of the lucky things in my life to find a place that would tolerate me for 29 years. That’s how long I spent it notarized. And I am not a corporate type. If you recall, back to corporate type. And I shouldn’t say that there are people in the corporate world that are very creative. But Motorola tolerated me for all those years that I’m very grateful for that.

Victoria Volk 33:20
I am sure millions of people are as well. So I have a couple questions that I jotted down. So I would I would actually probably say that your answer to this will be Yes, but I’ll and I think you may be kinda answered it. In your opinion, are tech advances, always a good thing? This is actually a question from a friend of mine,

Marty Cooper 33:53
Nicola valses, who was asked the I have a rule about that. In fact, I have a number of rules of life that I wrote down in my book, by the way, my book is called cutting the cord. The cell phone is transform humanity, find people. One of the pages I have in the book is what I called the party’s Maxim’s, and one of them is a definition of what technology is. My definition is technology is the application of science to create products and services that make people’s lives better. If it doesn’t make somebody’s life better, it’s not technology. It could be a curiosity. It could be a technical phenomenon. But if it’s set knology by definition, it has to make people’s lives better. Having said that, there are things that come along. Thanks Your lives better, but also have drawbacks. And that’s true of almost every technology. It’s absolutely true of things like nuclear technology. You know, you look at the idea that we have countries try to come compete in how many missiles, nuclear missiles they can make. That’s a really depressing thought. Yeah. But at some point in our history, our cities will be run by perfectly safe nuclear technology that is going to be so inexpensive, the power is not going to be the thing to us, we’re going to be driving our cars for practically nothing. Heating and Cooling our homes, all these things that are so costly today. So sometimes it takes time. And there are drawbacks to technologies. But as I say before, if it doesn’t make people’s lives better, it’s not technology.

Victoria Volk 36:06
I love that answer. Let’s see, what else do I have? What else should we have jotted down? Well, okay, so I did have this one thought too. And I wish whoever’s, like anyone who’s listening to this, and any inventors. You know, how the, when you’re driving down the highway or Interstate, or even the city or whatever, on the street lights, they’ll have like that thing. So if you’re running a red light, it can capture your license plate. Oh, yeah. Okay, great technology, right? saves the police officers time, you get a ticket in the mail. It’s, you know, so I’m just I, like, can’t we apply that to the cell phone. So like, situations where people are doing like, really awful things, you know, especially in in, I’m talking, I was going to go dark a little bit, but you know, like, with teenagers and sending pictures, or, you know, sex offenders sending pornography, like just things like that, like, to be able to track those people. Like when something is, you know, just like when you get a ticket in the mail, when you run a red light, if you do something like that, on a cell phone. There’s like some sort of data capture. And I mean, I don’t know, that’s maybe way, way far off thought. But I just thought, Gosh, to help make it safer, right to help utilize it for good, right?

Marty Cooper 37:46
Well, that’s what you just have touched upon, is one of the biggest problems in society today. And I’m really serious about that. Because the answer your comments, is absolutely. If all you have to do to be perfectly safe is to give up all your privacy. You’ve got to

Victoria Volk 38:08
make a decision. That’s true.

Marty Cooper 38:10
Are you willing to let somebody somebody else know exactly what you’re doing 24 hours a day, every day of your life, wherever you are? Are you willing to live somebody? examine what you do? record it all? And and knowing that, and knowing that’s true of everybody, we’d all be perfectly safe, right? There could be no crime, because we would catch people in the middle are doing well, you know that. Except that happening?

Victoria Volk 38:43
And it’s not happening, right? Yeah,

Marty Cooper 38:46
well, it can’t happen. Because we just treasure our privacy. And we also know what happens when you give up your privacy. In total, you go and look at what’s happened to totalitarian states. Because what happens is that the bad guys do get control of that information. And when they control your information, they control you. And they control your ideas. And they control your minds. They control what you can and cannot do. So somehow we have to achieve the right balance. I would suggest that we have gotten anywhere close to that now. People have been enchanted by this idea of getting stuff for nothing better to do to you, you know, you go to Google and they give you a search engine. Well, the most powerful educational tools that’s ever existed, and you kind of forgotten. No, you don’t. You are giving up your privacy every time you do a transaction. on Google, they get information about you, they know more and more about you and they use that information for their benefit. Very often it’s for your benefit to but you have no control over it, you have to get that free service, that you are giving up an awful lot. And the same thing is true with Facebook. And the same thing is true with Twitter, that you’re getting some satisfaction, you’re getting some improvement in your life, but you’re giving up your privacy for this. So we haven’t figured that out yet. And I think there are a lot of people working on including my wife, who is a an entrepreneur, and inventor herself. And one of her latest endeavors is kind of a side issue she has created an organization says, at least what is the tour, it will be able to put a Good Housekeeping Seal on a company with regard to privacy. They have come up with standards of privacy, what does a company have to do to preserve the privacy of their customers, and a company achieves those objectives, then they will have a seal that says that this organization, and I asked approve this company from the standpoint of privacy, because somehow rather we have to face this, this issue of privacy and nip it in the bud. If we keep it very, very good, keeps getting in chat and chatted with free services, and gives up all their privacy. I think that’s a super threat to our civilization. And I think people are too scared to do this.

Victoria Volk 41:45
This is a I’m glad that conversation went here because actually just recently well with my kids getting their cell phone. Right. So a part of it is that part of the caveat was that well, the ones with jobs have to help pay for those cell phones, the plans. And the one and a part of it too is that I want to be able to find you if you’re not home when you say you’re going to get home. So iPhone, they all have iPhones, I have an iPhone, you can use the find my app right to find it’ll actually locate their phone wherever their phones at. Typically, Yes, I understand that their phone can be somewhere where they’re not. But as teenagers will, they’re going to have their cell phone with them. But it’s there is also an app called I’m not going to name it out. But there was another app that I had heard about and I downloaded it and just to kind of test run it. And my daughter, I get home that night. And she’s like, so I saw you’re driving a little fast today. I’m like what she’s like, yeah, it tells me how fast you were going. Whoa. And it does. And like it tells me how fast the school bus went. The fastest speed of the school bus tells me when she left home when she got to school, like if you want to be like, helicopter parent on top of your kids by that’s the app to have. But I just found it. Like you said, I want to give my kids the sense of privacy too. And I I appreciate privacy as well. So thank you for bringing that up. I think it’s this artificial intelligence that’s maybe possibly even taking things a little further than maybe need be. I just want to be able to find my kids if you know, yeah, home when they say they’re going to be home.

Marty Cooper 43:51
Well, you do have an obligation somehow or other you have to make sure that your kids know, first of all, they’re not getting something for nothing. Secondly, that there are people that have access to them that they don’t want to have access, there are predators out there that are taking advantage of children, pretending that they are something that they’re not. So your kids do have to be careful and they have to be educated. And I fear that a lot of them are not being educated in that regard. Our schools, spend a lot of time teaching kids things that they may or may not do to know and they forget about other things that are practical things about living. Like what you eat, and how much exercise is important, and how to use your cell phone.

Victoria Volk 44:47
great segue to you being taught 92 going to be 93 soon and we have to remind me of that but I want to

Marty Cooper 45:00
Go ahead. On the other hand, Richard 93 has to be an important objective. So go ahead, please go ahead.

Victoria Volk 45:06
No, I want to, I want you to speak to your vitality, and to what you just said about eating and exercise and all of that, because obviously, that’s a huge contributor to your life and to your capability to continue to learn, right?

Marty Cooper 45:26
Well, let me tell you, this is gonna be a little hard to do in a couple of minutes. But your body is a complete system. It is not muscles, blood vessels, a brain, skeleton, it is a system where everything is connected to everything else. And everything affects everything else. So you can ask progressive life, unless you create the system as a complete system. So you have to exercise your brain, we’ve already covered that, haven’t we, but you’ve got to exercise your body as well, and every part of your body. So so you need to not only do aerobic, to anaerobic exercise, you need to really know, upper body has got to be everything. And do your digestive system is extraordinarily important in that because that’s how you know, that’s what your body is, your body is nothing like a big battery, where you take this food in. And this got this wonderful thing called the digestive system that turns the food into energy. So your whole system has to be exercised in an intelligent way. And we don’t learn how to do that in school. They depend upon us to go out into the real world and solve their problem ourselves. So I was lucky enough. And it took until I was almost 50 years old, before I started, I became a runner I took on for for about 15 or 20 years, I never touched a bit of refined sugar or refined flour. Because I read I think it was corrected that time and I still try to do this, as you get an imbalance of sugar in your body, and it causes inflammation and do it reduces your lifetime and makes your lifetime less effective. So there are a whole bunch of rules that people ought to practice. And then we don’t we grew, we, as a society, eat too much sugar. And we eat too much in general. And I’m on discipline. So the only way I could get rid of all this food that I used to just exercise a lot. Which I which I try to do, it gets harder and harder as you get older, as you might imagine. So discipline is important. And I haven’t learned that yet, but I’ve worked.

Victoria Volk 48:18
So what has been one of the greatest lessons that you’ve learned in your life. Aside from that, you know, the body and maintaining all of that, like just what some wisdom that you would share with others that you’ve learned in your life?

Marty Cooper 48:35
Well, I wouldn’t call it wisdom, but I important part of my life is interaction with people, in my presumption when I meet somebody, including you is that I’m going to pursue this relationship and learn what I can because everybody has something to teach me. And I have found that to be true, even people that I in your case, I don’t have any problem. I think you’re charming. I’ve met people that are offensive. And yet when I engage with them, I find out that you have skills or knowledge and I don’t have and I try to be as open minded as I can. Now the other side of that coin, however, is that when I do find people that have things to contribute, I treasure that. so fortunate to live in a in a city like San Diego, we’ve, we have a number of universities. And when I get to meet people in these universities, and exchange ideas with them, that is a cornerstone in my life. And I could do that every day with my wife, a great deal smarter than I am. So all of those things are so important. You cannot live live without for yourself, that we live in a society, and the exciting things about life, do involve collaboration, and appreciate each other. I love to vlog and answer for such a nice short No,

Victoria Volk 50:16
no, it seems like connection connection, you know? Yeah, it’s about connection. And just like we can grow through connection, we grow through grief, too, which is what my podcast is all about. And so what has grief taught you in your life? And what are some of your grieving experiences that have helped you push through some difficult challenges in your life?

Marty Cooper 50:44
Well, I always try to think about the issues that cause grief in the context of what was positive before the grief happened. So I never talked about the difficulties my mother had, her mother lived in, until almost from the 90s. I talked about how wonderful she was, and how much she contributed, and how she even my mother was selling dresses, when she was in her late 80s. In a in a dress shop, but it really not because she needed the money, but she wanted to keep talking to other people. So I, I think that understanding of how important it is to help people in your life is probably one of the most important things in my life.

Victoria Volk 51:44
I love that. And I saw too, that you, you were thank you for your service as well. I’m a veteran. And I am and I saw that you were in the Korean War. And can you share anything about that experience?

Marty Cooper 52:01
No, I you know, I was in active duty in the sense that we were trying to blow up North Korean railroads and things of that nature, I was in the submarine forces. And we did an awful lot of practicing to be ready for something but I was never at a shooting war. Nobody ever shouted at me. And I’m very grateful for that. I I appreciated the service for a number of reasons. One is they put me through school. And I’m not sure I would have been able to go to university without without the navies, and help. And the second thing is a I’ve always been someone in the tour I’m still working on growing up. But they’ve helped me grow up they taught me about discipline, about responsibility, a lot keeping your word about things. So I learned a great deal in the in the Navy. And I would recommend that to everyone. I think what they do in Israel, where everybody else is served for some period of time, is a very useful and productive thing. And ladies says For most people, some people grow up sooner than others. But it’s an experience everybody loves to have. The other side of that coin, however, is that I wish we didn’t need armies, or weapons. I find that if so, you know, if you’re a builder, or if you’re a creator, and you want things to get better. We certainly do better cooperating with each other than we do. Fighting. We’re more efficient if we do take them all the money we spend on these weapons when we could be working on tools for improving productivity. So So I wish we didn’t have to have our reason that people would learn how to talk to each other. I’m afraid we are some generations away from last. But if education keeps getting better, at least in the youth, free societies, I think that that we are going to learn how to get by without a roof. And I only hope that we can make all the societies in the world free like we are before we should be glory at our independence. You know, we’ve got a lot of problems. I don’t suggest that. That’s all of better roses, but but it’s all fixable. I think I think we’re lucky to have a society where we could complain about things. We could argue with other people and yet, everyone Good speaker lines don’t?

Victoria Volk 55:02
Absolutely. Would you say that is one thing that maybe breaks your heart? I’m sorry. One thing? Would you say that that’s maybe one thing that breaks your heart?

Marty Cooper 55:16
Oh, yeah. irrationality bricks. When I when people have ideas that just don’t make any sense at all, and they deeply believe that, that is heartbreaking to me. And that is the basis of intolerance. If they basis of warfare, this people just not sticking it out. If you think it out and work things out, right? There’s always a solution that is more efficient, and better than fighting or being intolerant.

Victoria Volk 55:56
all comes back to what you said earlier in being willing to learn from others being open to learning.

Marty Cooper 56:04
You’ve got it. No wonder you could make the big bucks.

Victoria Volk 56:11
Yeah, maybe someday. I get a feeling though, like the crux of your message, like, the main part of your message is that learning is, is what was I gonna say? Learning is everything.

Marty Cooper 56:30
It’s a foundation. Yeah, it’s not, you know, you have to execute. So having all that information is not worthwhile unless you actually put it to use. But without that, there are no uses that you can do. There’s nothing you could accomplish without what I have a basis for doing good things. So that’s the one thing I got for this thing, that I use that term before, but learning is the foundation of life.

Victoria Volk 57:01
That is your quotable for this episode. What is one thing that you would like to share with someone listening that maybe has a dream, or lost a dream, or maybe hasn’t allowed themselves to dream just because of their circumstances in life? And you’ve kind of touched on a lot of different points, but kind of put it in a nutshell, what you would say to them how to get out of that space, that headspace and get back to dreaming again, and believing? I think it comes back down to faith too. Right? Yeah.

Marty Cooper 57:47
You know, that’s the first question to ask that I can’t respond to because I can’t envision I can’t put myself in somebody’s shoes. Totally negative doesn’t have a vision of the future of how things could get better. And there’s really no reason to do that. Because I know people at all levels of life that have an optimistic viewpoint, and whatever they do, they want to do it well. And sometimes they’re menial tasks, but they somehow take pride in what they’re doing. And if somebody doesn’t take pride in what they’re doing, if they don’t have ideas, if they don’t think about things that bring them pleasure, I feel so sorry for them. And I tell people, if you’ve got a job where you never get any satisfaction, go to something else, you’re entitled to be able to have your own ideas, to get satisfaction out of it, get a thrill out of it, who idea. And if you don’t do that, shame on us, you can go find something else to do and live a much more productive life.

Victoria Volk 59:06
What I hear and you say and that is that look at who you’re surrounding yourself with.

Marty Cooper 59:12
I suppose you’re right. Well, your your sounds like you’re more selective that I like my wife, he’s telling me No, I don’t like so and so. And I say, well, they’re not so bad. I had learned such a trope. So as I say, I’m just very lucky I just I just run into more interesting and fun. And people that teach me things so. So I know when I make rules about how selective I should be. You don’t want me to be a snob or an elitist or you

Victoria Volk 59:47
know, but no, but I think it comes down to two it’s been if if what you’re focusing on is wanting to learn from people, you’re going to learn from all kinds of people you’re going to look for those people to learn from right up. You got it? What is one thing? What brings you out? This is a question I asked usually, what is the one one thing that brings you the most joy and hope for the future? Well,

Marty Cooper 1:00:22
oh, that’s another really hard question, I’m gonna have to duck that one, only by talking about my, I now have a great granddaughter, if you and I have other family that’s got a baby, segue guess I have three, three babies in my life of very close people. And when I see them growing up, and how fast they’re learning, and, and how much I admire their parents, and how they’re raising these kids, because they got advantages. I never had, my children never had, I guess that’s my biggest tell for the future. There, they are going to get educated better than I was like children, or maybe even my grandchildren. And they, that’s our hope for society. And society doesn’t get control out of some of these things that are on the verge of getting out of control our society that civilization second to last much longer. That would be a shame with all that we’ve accomplished, though, for. So it’s the coming generations that I think are greater, we should be doing everything we can to make their world a better world than our world was

Victoria Volk 1:01:46
about, I’m gonna put you on the spot for one more question. So being the futuristic thinker that you are, and being 92, going and 93, often living in the future. What do you think about for the rest of your days? What do you want that to look like? Your mind when you think about that?

Marty Cooper 1:02:12
Obviously, you’re not paying attention. Like I told you at the beginning, I have never been able to plan out my life. I am struggling at the moment, trying to figure out what my next career is. And I haven’t quite worked it out, you know, I spent a lot of effort writing my book. And I was focused on it for a number of years. And that’s over. And I’m very satisfied with the book, I wish another million people that would have bought the book that when I told my story, and that was my objective. And I’m trying to figure out what to do next. And not entirely clear, I’ve got topicals I’ve tried to look at things I’ve been studying how the human brain works. You know, we’re a hearing aids, which are totally unsatisfactory. And I am working with people in the universities that try to improve this industry. So I haven’t totally figured it out yet. But I am going to come up with another career. And it will be focused on the things that I know how to do, how do you put things existing things together in different ways to make people’s lives better. That’s how we started a conversation. It’s a good way for us to,

Victoria Volk 1:03:40
but I’m gonna put a bug in here on that one, forgive the pun, but actually, there was an incident where someone I know had lost their hearing aid at a campground. And we were looking through the grass to try and find this hearing aid. And it’s like, you know, they have apps and things where you can find your keys and ways to do that. How come there isn’t this artificial intelligence in your hearing aids that you can pair to your phone? So if you lose your hearing aid, you can find it especially something that costs like a small car like you can they’re very expensive, right? Yeah. So

Marty Cooper 1:04:18
I’m veteran. Yeah. By the way to do this flower record, I guys. Okay, yellow. This is a big Hi, Ellen. She’s reminding me about my next appointment. So you did just could do it in venture it is possible to do find my hearing aid. A much better solution would be to make the hearing aid so inexpensive. If you lost if you could just get another one, and it wouldn’t be. And that really is what I’m working on. Now. If you look at a pair of Apple earbuds, the technology in these earbuds they cost about two or $300, it’s not very different than this $6,000 pair of earrings that irrigates that were, something’s wrong. And I’m really working very hard on this. Because not only are they too costly, they don’t work. Oh, that will. But I’ll keep in mind your comment to it when we get to the stage of actually doing something. Even losing if a hearing aid class out at hours, you ought to be able to find it. And there is no technical reason why you couldn’t do it. If you can find a cell phone, you could find a hearing aid. So I’ll try to remember to put your name on the patent if we ever have no way. Multiple is better. Oh, that would be amazing.

Victoria Volk 1:06:06
I yeah. And you know, thank you so much. I know you have to go thank you so much for your time today for your wisdom. I’m gonna put everything in the show notes, but quickly share where people can find you.

Marty Cooper 1:06:19
So it’s my pleasure. Great to talk to her a great interviewer and a very good question. Good luck to you.

Victoria Volk 1:06:26
Great, thank you. Good to see you. Bye Bye now. Bye.

Ep 66 | We Don’t Know What We Don’t Know

Takeaways & Reflections | We Don’t Know What We Don’t Know


When you find yourself the observer of a situation that brings up some emotional dis-ease for you, it may be helpful to say the following to yourself: “I don’t know what I don’t know.”

This helps me to feel better when I have felt wronged in some way or when I find myself raising an eyebrow at a situation that may or may not involve me.

Society isn’t short of judgment and criticism these days. I think there’s plenty of it to go around the world a few times. However, each of us can help change that and intentionally, instead, pause and take a moment to reflect and attempt to be empathetic, even if it doesn’t come naturally to you.

Some may say we need to be more sympathetic, but even that can come across as pity. Maybe it’s just easier to say that sometimes, our opinions are best kept to ourselves.

Whether you believe in the afterlife or don’t, or think every mother should fight tooth and nail to keep their children with them, I hope this episode leads you to listen to both Episode 64 with Kristjana and 65 with Sirry because, they couldn’t be any more different but yet, the common theme comes down to how we don’t know what we don’t know.


Today, it’s a takeaways and reflections episode, about Episode 64: A Mother’s Heartache and Sacrifice with Kristjana Hillberg, and Episode 65: The Spirit World Walks Among Us with Sirry Berndsen. A perfect example of grief that hadn’t yet been represented on this podcast, which I do like to share all different types of losses, just to give people a different perspective. Because you may know somebody who has been in the situation, or you may know someone who is going through something similar, and maybe you want to support them. But you’re not sure how, or maybe it’s you, and you find yourself in that Griever’s story. Regardless of the loss, regardless of the story that comes to this podcast, we can all find a little bit of ourselves in the stories, especially if we’ve experienced a lot of loss in our lives. And through that stories, and the different perspectives that I bring to you is an opportunity for you to reflect on. Well, what would I do in that situation? How would I respond? What do I think about that? What do I believe about that? Those questions that help us really grow into who we want to be, who we desire to be, and maybe even have some more compassion towards those who have a different life experience that we may have judged, or had some criticism around. Because those are often too a result of our upbringings and our experiences. And we see other people’s situations through the lens of our own experience. So I do appreciate when people give me their time to share their stories with my listeners, because it is a service to us all, we can all learn something from each and every one of them.

A Mother’s Choice for What’s Best for Her Child

When I first heard about Kristjana’s story, I knew I wanted her on the podcast because she shares a very different perspective of divorce and child custody. As a mom, it’s natural for us to feel like we want our children to be with us. But for Kristjana, it wasn’t as simple as that. She was living five hours away from her husband, so that she could be with her daughter that she shared custody with from a previous relationship. And this worked fine for quite some time, over a year, until she found herself expecting with her new husband. And she knew that this decision was going to have to be made to either go be with her new husband, or in the same town or area as her daughter. And just think about that. What would you do? Now with that natural instinct of wanting your child to be with you? Kristjana had the emotional awareness and really tried to put herself in her daughter’s shoes and knew that there was so much love there for her in this large extended family with her father. And she felt tormented on pulling her away from that. But she also felt tormented or not having her daughter with her. So what would you do? I’ve never known anyone in the situation before Kristjana. Probably three to five years ago, if I would have heard of this situation, I probably would have passed along some judgment or criticism because that is a natural thing for us when we don’t find ourselves in that similar situation. For really, what would you do? When you know what’s best for your child, it’s not always the easy decision to make. And Kristjana by no means has an easy decision to make. And so she really put it off for quite some time. Until one day, the answer came to her, almost like a lightning bolt and washed over her in a moment of peace, She’s described it as she had realized what was best for her daughter. And in that moment, she felt peace with that decision. And she knew what she needed to do. And that was to leave her daughter behind and work on us shared custody arrangement that would be in the best interest for their daughter. And that would also serve and nurture her marriage as well, and new family to be, and not not necessarily a new family, because their daughter was very much going to be a part of that. It just would look different than what she imagined.

We Don’t Know What We Don’t Know

And so I really encourage you to listen to Kristjana’s episode, because aside from the difficult decision, and all the thought process that went into making that, and the unhelpful and hurtful things that people said to her. The helpful things that she learned along the way of what she needed for herself. We talked about boundaries, we talked about values, we talked about how she came into her own knowing of what was best for her and her family, regardless of what anybody thought of her or their situation. And here’s the thing, because no one knows your situation as well as you do. People hear stories, or they make assumptions, but no one really knows. Unless they ask. And so I think I’ve mentioned during the episode, and I try to remind myself of this is, I don’t know what I don’t know. And that is the message that applies to both the episodes that I’m talking about today, because whether we’re looking at someone else’s situation from the outside, or were trying to wrap our heads around, something like the afterlife, we don’t know what we don’t know. And we can have these thoughts and feelings about the afterlife, which become our beliefs, or which are our beliefs. But if we can be open to what we don’t know, we can allow ourselves to receive new information, we can allow ourselves to receive messages.

There Are Things That Death Cannot Touch: Love

And that’s what I loved about the episode with Sirry, in that she shared so many tips and ways that people who have lost a loved one can keep that relationship going in a positive way. Because regardless of what you believe, when someone dies, the relationship doesn’t end. There, you may have an unfinished business with that person. So even if that person is no longer on the physical plane, you still have a relationship with them in your heart, you still may have emotional residue from maybe an argument that you had right before that person passed, or maybe the relationship was less than loving throughout your life. And there were things that you could never communicate or never share, because you didn’t feel safe to. Or perhaps it was something that you knew was coming or the person was going through a terminal illness, and you knew it was coming and you had the time, the luxury of time. And you took advantage of that time to make it an impactful learning and deep experience with that person to help you gain insight into what they were feeling, what they were experiencing at the end of their life. But so many people too are afraid to ask those questions, those deep questions. They’re really thinking about that person, leaving them of no longer being there. And that gets in the way of this opportunity to have that deep connection with that person.

Those We Love Never Truly Leave Us

And Sirry had shared how helpful working with a medium has been for so many Grievers in her practice. And she’s also a certified grief recovery specialist as well, which really adds to her professionalism and to her ability to really help a griever have the best experience possible for connecting with their loved ones. I personally had a session with Sirry it was unexpectedly amazing. It was the only session I’ve ever had with a medium or of any kind. I learned a lot about with my children because not only was it a spiritual connection session, it was also intuitive guidance as well. And so I learned some things about my I practice as a Reiki professional. But her professionalism and her strong desire to help me as a griever, who had only recently in the last couple of years really addressed the relationships that have left me feeling conflicted in my life. It’s really hard, I think for many of us to wrap our heads around the idea that we are supported in ways that we can’t even imagine that our loved ones are truly watching over us, guiding us bringing things to our attention, if we only would pay attention. I remember as a kid, I’d be walking down the street in the winter, the snow would be falling and it was my favorite time to go for a walk. I hate the cold but there was something about it when you hear the church bells in the night, and you could hear him across town dead silent. I’d hear the church bells and the snow would be falling and I’d walk under the streetlight and I would go out, and that’s happened to me many, many times, or the light would just go out, it would happen when I’d be driving, a light would just go out a streetlight, and I don’t know, he could say I made it up in my mind, but I felt like that was my dad, he was watching out for me just making sure I knew getting my attention. Because the light coin out is going to get your attention, a street light at that will get your attention. And it did, it did many times.

We Are Not Immune To Grief

Talking with Sirry, I recognize that is something I can ask for. I can ask for that as a sign. I just really encourage you to listen to Sirry’s episode with an open mind and an open heart as you listen, even if you feel like that isn’t something that’s for you. I hope you listen to her tips to help you personally connect with someone who has your heart, but they’re not here. Both episodes offer so much wisdom through their stories. And I’m just really floored at the quality of people who I have drawn to this podcast, everyone has a story. And I don’t care if you’re a celebrity, or I just I don’t care who you are, we all put our pants on the same way, right? We all grieve someone or something and we are not immune to grief. Regardless of who we are, we will all meet death at some point. And stories like Kristjana’s and Sirry’s help bring another perspective that we all can learn from, as I mentioned before, and there’s so much more I could probably say, but honestly, it’s beautiful outside.

We’re having some unusually warm weather here in the Dakotas and my spirit is calling me to the outdoors. And so I will leave this episode there. All the goodness is in those two episodes. I just don’t know that I have anything else to add to the conversations because the tips were that good. It’s important for us to always remember that we don’t know what someone is going through the depth of it. We don’t know what we don’t know.

much love, victoria

P.S. If you want to listen to more takeaways and reflections episodes you can click here. And if you find this helpful please share it because sharing is caring. And remember, when you unleash your heart, you unleash your life. Much love.

Ep 65 | Sirry Berndsen

Sirry Berndsen | The Spirit World Walks Among Us



There are psychics and then there are psychic mediums. Do you know the difference?

Sirry shares the difference between the two in this week’s episode. And, there’s so much more that we cover in this conversation including:

  • Her grief growing up, things she’s experienced as an adult, and what her grief is today.
  • What her thoughts are on the afterlife.
  • Her thoughts on religion and mysticism of life as it relates to mediumship.
  • Cultural differences in self-care when it comes to grief.
  • What happens to people who do bad things after they die?
  • Her experience being a Certified Medium and a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist
  • Tips for those who are in preparation for a loved one dying.
  • Tips for those who are grieving the loss of a loved one.
  • Learn how to connect with the spirit of deceased loved ones.

So much goodness packed into this episode! Listen with an open mind and open heart, and see what comes up for you. See if you can feel the spirit within you stirring your heart to learn more. And, if you feel called to have your mind blown, I can’t recommend a session with Sirry enough! She’s highly professional and has a heart full of love and light.



Victoria Volk 0:08
Thank you for tuning in to grieving voices. I am super excited for today’s guest. Sirry Berndsen holds a BFA and MFA in Visual Arts and as a certified medium by the forever family foundation. She’s a grief recovery methods specialist and a master teacher. She’s also studied as suey, reiki, and received master life regression therapy training from the Weiss Institute. Thank you, thank you for blessing me with your presence. And I am just super excited to have you on as a guest today. I personally have had a session with you blew my mind. My very first one actually, too. And I just I’m so thrilled to have you here. So thank you.

Sirry Berndsenr 1:42
Well, thank you for inviting me. And thank you for being relentless.

Victoria Volk 1:45
I am relentless when I had I pestered to, to you know, send in the email sending the emails and yes, if I if there’s something I feel like would be a great service to my audience. And that just really, I’m just so curious to learn more. Yeah, like, it gets me excited. So yes, it’s

Sirry Berndsen 2:07
enthusiasm, and we all love and enthusiasm and passion, and I think that more of us could use it.

Victoria Volk 2:13
Yes. So let’s talk about, let’s start there with your work. And really what brought you to do this work.

Sirry Berndsen 2:24
So what brought me to do this work? About 20 years ago, I went through a really quite a horrific experience where somebody was violated me. And it was a turning point in my life. Because before this, so I’m gonna start from the beginning, as a child, I just had sort of this childhood faith. I think I went to church, maybe two or three times I was not a church person, none of my family members were so not raised with any religion. But my grandmother had a tiny, tiny, tiny bit of religion in her and but that was it. And so in my childhoods, I was very much the child of nature, which is very common like for people in Iceland, we are very connected to nature. And we thrive on anything and everything that has to do with the blue sky and the like the earth and everything that is our religion, that is our faith. And so when I was 12 years old, I changed and the reason why I changed my whole sort of this childhood religion or this childhood faith, at the age of 12, I had been bullied because I read here and says, this is a podcast, people don’t see me, but I have red hair and blue eyes, very, very fair, and have been bullied for probably like two or three years in school. And it was just absolutely horrendous. And I was getting to a point of feeling extremely depressed. And I was the youngest child of most of my parents. And my brother was also redheads. And my sister too. As I don’t know, my mom and dad, I didn’t really pay attention to it as like, oh, it is what it is. But I remember that the like I was about 12 years old when I started praying to God and I said to God, please make a stop. And this was, this was like, every single day I’ll be praying to God make this bullying stop, and it wouldn’t stop and then it just said one day, okay, God, I made a deal. If it doesn’t stop, I will no longer believe in you and I will no longer pray to and so that that just it just came to a complete standstill. So at this point, I’m 12 years old. And then life just continues and I had this deep faith that when you die, you go on the ground or your primitive. And that’s it done was such a simple way of thinking. And I’ll be honest now today because of the work that I do. It is the extreme simplification of everything.

Sirry Berndsen 4:43
Then you get to the point of you don’t need to worry about the afterlife is like you die on you. That’s it. So then fast forward, and then I moved to America and I had this horrible experience and I was going through a really really rough time and then something in my heart said Oh, look for Have some sort of a spiritual gathering. And a friend of mine had gone to see a psychic medium some years prior and she was off the motorway but and I remember myself think like, Oh, this is BS. And I actually changed the subject and I said to her like, oh, when would you like to go skiing next time. And so and I remember this so vividly because I just thought it was like she was Cuckoo. And so so after that horrible experience, I was, my heart was or spirit I should say, spirit was nudging me to go and seek something else. And I went to spiritualist church. And this isn’t a matter of moments of like within minutes, but my whole life changed. So in the spiritualist church, there was a young lady she is now my friend, Jacqueline, she was the medium of the day, close to main age and, and she was giving a message to a woman who was most likely Thai or Filipino because I was sitting all the way in the back of the church. And, and I could only see the back of her head on sort of a little bit of a cheek. And then Jackie says, Well, I have your mother here. And she gave a really good description of the mother and how she passed and all those things. And then Jackie said this, she said something in a different language. As he said to the lady, she said, I’m hearing this thing, and I have no idea what it means I have no idea. Like, I just hear this sound I need to give this to you. And so she gave it to the young lady in the congregation. And the young lady says oh my god, that’s my mother’s saying I love you in her own native language. That transformed my life in a in a second. And because I every one of the chairs that day, it was like 80 people there. And everyone just gasped. And there are other mediums. There were other people that were there that day, though, also were young mediums, and they remember this moment so vividly. Now Jackie did not go to college, she did not study Thai or Filipino, she says like really down to earth. And so when she said this in a different language in an Asian language that no one else in the church understood except the young lady. That was it for me. And I said to myself, well, if I was to try to do this work, I would like to be as good as Jackie. And so the Reverend in the church that day, she said, Well, we’re going to start classes in the fall, if you’d like to attend those classes, come and see me. I was unemployed, I had just graduated with my MFA, you know, who’s going to hire somebody with an art degree. And so I started attending these classes, and everything happened just really quickly. So what I thought was always my imagination. I just thought it was my imagination. When I was talking to the class, or when I was talking to nothingness, I just thought it was like makeup stuff. But it wasn’t. And so in these classes, within weeks, I just excelled. Because as time progressed, I was able to decipher what was my imagination, and then what was coming through from spirits. And I think that I would have to say that I studied also I studied journalism, and I knew how to interview so I knew how to do these interviews with people. And I knew how to be on the radio on all of those things. And so when I got to the point of with my art background, there was this great imagination. And then with my skills of interviewing, I found myself having the ability to interview spirits. And I would sit with them, and I would just ask them questions, who are you and I would break everything down to male female and then I would break it down into a family or friend and then I was a family that would break down to are you like the age and what relationship and our math everything out in my mind or it was almost like a 3d thing. And like how we have the tablets for the iPad today. And I was able to map everything out in my mind, okay, is the dad coming through and then it could feel like if he had other siblings if there were other siblings in the spirit world I’m so in line things up like this farewelled was always behind me on the living people in front of me. So it just started this whole journey of talking to spirits, it was communication with spirit on. And now so this was in the beginning years. And now I actually teach this and I teach the method that I use back in the day. But now it just seems to flow because I had this 100% trust that when I am connected and this is usually with the person that comes to see me, they know that I’m connected. If I’m not connected, then it’s just it is what it is. And I apologize, but I would say 80 90% of the time I am connected and my hope is always that at least 90% is understood or people can connect to it if I’m not hitting the mark on a at 90% I don’t do a session that day. But because sometimes some things are left to interpretation or get into debate about like whether somebody something was teal, or sort of is bluish green tone, and I won’t do that anyway. So um, so yeah, so now I know that there’s an afterlife I know not even with a 99 it’s not even 99.99 I know that with 100% no doubt in my mind that there’s an afterlife Absolutely. And I think that it sort of gives us it’s an interesting idea because knowing that there’s an afterlife and you think just like well what happens on the other side? What happens in the afterlife? Where is the absolute there’s so many questions that come up. But then what I think is more important is that how are we living our lives here today, connecting to other people? Are we living our best lives? And are we living our kindness lives? Because when we pass away we have this review. And, and the question is, then could we have done something better?

Sirry Berndsen 10:41
And that’s the thing that I want to always sort of how I live my life and like I always make sure that I’m doing the best that I can. I’m a living my kindness life. Do I have compassion from a neighbor even when I find myself being a little bit annoyed with someone, I do a self reflection what is it that is in me that is causing this annoyance it’s an everyday thing because the other thing also like I live in silence, I love not listening to I like I never watched TV, if I do have a little bit of TV watching us like a movie or something, or TV show The lifts my spirits, I never watched my loves on TV, I just don’t see the point in it, watching the news don’t see the point in it. And it’s really about keeping my spirit light, with a capital L. and uplifted and, and even with when it comes to the music. If I listen to music, it usually is some sort of a curtain soft music in the music. Like, if I’m getting ready for a session, I may listen to meditative music. But otherwise, I’m in silence because I love a lot to be present in my own thoughts.

Victoria Volk 11:45
Hello, thank you for sharing your progression and how you got into the work. And I’m curious as a child, did you recognize that you had kind of this this? Yes.

Sirry Berndsen 11:58
So looking back, absolutely. When I was a child, so when I was growing up, we lived in a kind of a small apartments. The fire was in like two bedrooms. And it was really cramped. And so we only had one bathroom. And I remember myself was a childhood. So I’m really young at this time, probably from the age of like two up to like 678, I would go into the bathroom and I would lock the door. And I will just sit there on the bathroom floor. And I will talk to my imaginary friends. And I’ve heard later on that is very, very common with a lot of mediums. They talk to their Imaginary Friends, I would have full conversation with them for an hour or even longer until like somebody would start knocking on the door. He was just childhood conversations. But it was like full blown conversations. I remember as a kid I had like, there were two children. Oh, come and play with me. It was a boy and a girl.

Victoria Volk 12:51
Do you feel like most children the innocence of children? Do you feel like most children do because of their innocence of this gift? kind of you know of?

Sirry Berndsen 13:03
Yes. So this is this is an I think a lot of people say the same people that are worked in my field, we can tell when a child is really connected. And I will say we are all psychic, we are born with a psychic gift. And if people are questioning there’s people that may be religious, you may want to look into Corinthian letters one through 14. It says there that people are born with gifts, that we’re all born with gifts. And so then the question is what is the gift and children? They’re so receptive, they’re so innocent. And I would say about options up until the age of like maybe seven or eight when they start going to first or second grade when other kids may start making fun of them. The childhood innocence but also there’s this purity with the children that they don’t question like, they don’t question the silliness of things such as like, Oh, yeah, this is what it is. And I think also a lot of times infants are very, very young babies like when they’re just like not naturally verbal yet, when they’re like pointing into thin air. They have. So it’s really interesting that the infant’s retina, the eyes, they develop at a later stage. And I heard an interview on NPR about this. And I thought it was absolutely fascinating. So they have a different sights up until a certain point in the lives and because I’m not a scientist, I don’t know until one disease, but they see spirits, they see them. And I think that every parent, they should allow them to just see them and be normal around it. When they sound like going bah bah bah and like pointing into thin air, pay attention to it, engage in a conversation. Oftentimes also children, they will speak to photographs, you know, and they will like babble. And they will say things and nobody understands nicely what they’re saying. But they’ll have bah bah, bah, bah, photographs. So Mike’s measures that use the children, they’re talking to someone because there’s so receptive.

Victoria Volk 14:56
Was that something that you hit then I mean, if You went to the bathroom to lock the door. And you know, it’s it’s something you felt like you couldn’t share. And yes, because

Sirry Berndsen 15:06
I was the youngest. And so I was the youngest of my siblings, and let’s just put it this way, then they needed a punching bag. You know how that goes like when, because my brother at the time he was, he’s not much older than I he was a teenager. And then my sister is a year and a half older than I am. But it’s sort of like a yes, I hit the I hit it from them just to have peace and quiet around it so that they wouldn’t call me insane or crazy. I mean, they already did. You’re crazy. I just didn’t want to have that in my head all the time. So yes, I get it.

Victoria Volk 15:39
And the youngest two, so I get you,

Sirry Berndsen 15:42
oh, you can get it, okay, you get is like, make them stop doing that. make them stop poking me make them stop, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.

Victoria Volk 15:50
So in the work that you do, you know, because people and you’re a grief recovery specialist. And so I am too. And so you bring a different aspect to your work, I think because of that. And so in the in sessions with people, I’m just curious, is there one session that really stands out to you?

Sirry Berndsen 16:13
I’m not sure if there’s one session. I mean, there’s several sessions that stand out for me for different reasons. But I can say this. Before I did the grief recovery method, I was able to pinpoint pretty precisely things, events in people’s lives, that were in some ways, traumatizing, that caused grief that caused pain. But after I did the grief recovery methods, training, I was able to line things up in more in more of a clear fashion, if I can say that. And and you know how I would do the grief chart? The What is it called? The loss? Yes. Grant? The Yes, the loss graph. Yes. So now that that has been sort of embedded into my mind from the training, is, you know, the spirits, they just bring it up in my mind. And like yesterday, I did a session yesterday that I was able to use that their last chart really precisely, you know, so like, her parents divorced when she was about, like, everything started going downhill when her parents were like, when she was eight or nine years old things that are going downhill. And then they divorced when she was about 1112 years old. And then I was able to in my mind using the loss last year, I knew that when she was 14, her mom passed away so I’m able to line things up more more precisely than I used to. And so my I think that my personal grief is obviously I’ve gone through my own grief as a child, we all do. We all go through grief, we open our eyes to the world. I was like, okay, there’s grief. But I think because of the work that I that I’ve done in the past 20 years, I’m able to process things a little bit differently. And to share with you just really briefly, for instance, both my parents passed away, and I had a very complicated religion with my dad. And so when we, when I did the training, I did the last chart on my dad, of course, and I wrote the letter to my dad. And then when my mom passed away was interesting, my siblings, they thought it would be the one like lutens really kind of like sort of having a hard time with it. But I knew I wouldn’t. And the reason is because because of the work that I’ve done and because of the reef recovery, I knew how to treat myself really well. And when my mom passed away, I actually took two weeks off from work and when it came to her birthday, I took the day off from work but I took probably good six five to six weeks to Greece in the kindest most gentle way possible. Of course I saw and you know after she passed away a shard but it was interesting I would see her appear so what happened after a passage I was staying in her home and I actually ended up going into her bedroom and I slept in her bed and I’ll see her appear in the door you know I’m just talking to me and that was really comforting but at the same time it was really hard like heart wrenching but I kind of knew because of the work that I do that okay, I can always talk to her and um, she was just like walking around the home and I was like and then I would hear her say to miss you know, let’s see, call my name Siri. Now Siri and sort of in a very loving and daring way, or she would call me honey Siri, just to try to get my attention that I would just spend time with her. This after our passing. So I after took time off from work, because I knew that that was grief that I wanted to really heal. I’m not going to my work in sort of all patterning in pieces it was important for me to put the pieces back together

Victoria Volk 20:07
I think that’s what so many people do is they just quickly try to they don’t take that time and a lot for many people I don’t want to minimize it that that isn’t that is a luxury to be able to have that time to be able to do that can be a feel like a luxury for people especially with kids and you know if you have all kinds of things in your life so go ahead and

Sirry Berndsen 20:30
use yeah i think is a cultural thing also though, because I remember when my grandma passed away my my mother’s mother when she passed away my mom took some days off from work and I remember this vividly that she would spend time just grieving and it’s a cultural thing because in my culture you are given a chance to grieve I mean for instance we get for some occasion we get five maybe six weeks summer vacation depending on who you work for minimum five and for maternity leave you get six months minimum of up to a year. Wow Hey, we’re tight about maternity leave. And so the culture that I come from it’s it’s Iceland it’s a very Scandinavian culture you’re allowed to be human you’re allowed to be with your family and even like I know in Denmark and Sweden or Norway they really encourage you to spend time with family and I think that in one of the Scandinavian countries they gave you I think up to two years of maternity leave of full pay you know and that is something that absolutely blows Americans away and so I’m coming from that culture one of my mom because the way yes, it is a luxury that I was able to take time off work but I also live my life in such a way that I don’t spend a lot of money I am kind of simple in my lifestyle like I don’t spend money on silly things. I’m frugal. First of all I buy secondhand clothing and I’m proud of it you know and I recycle a lot and so when I take time off I know that I will not be making any money at the time but I’ve prepared for those days and then I just live really sparingly during the time off

Victoria Volk 22:12
and I love those tips and I think to like you said it’s it’s setting your life up for what you value yes and if you are wondering what people value just look where they spend their money right?

Sirry Berndsen 22:27
Oh absolutely I’m like I don’t need I’m not I do not need to measure up to anyone I don’t care what like my neighbors to if they get a new car if they get a new book I just don’t care about those things those material things I don’t care about but yes my value is in family and being in the space that I need to be in emotional well being it is and you know what it is it’s self love. It is self love and I had this I had this thinking I used to be a flight attendant for a short while and they would always say that you know put dogs and mask on yourself first before you put on your anyone else around you. Especially the children because they you know they will survive you just have to take care of yourself first and so these days when I when I can like a point my point of myself when I say me and myself and I but I say this as a loving way because with me being fully there. I can be there for you. It really comes down to that

Victoria Volk 23:25
and that’s what I hear a lot to like the remote that makes me think of how people say when I say I’m you know a grief recovery specialist I tend to have a grief podcast you know, it’s depressing that sounds depressing. It Oh, and don’t look at it that way. You know I grief is a teacher. It is such a wonderful teacher. For us. It highlights in all the ways that what it shows up for us. It highlights illuminates what needs healing. Yes. in all aspects of our lives. Every cause grief touches every aspect of our lives, our money, relationships, our relationship to ourself. How we show up in the world, everything.

Sirry Berndsen 24:13
Absolutely. And what you just said how we show up in the world. Grief touches everything. And I recently heard Rene brown Susan’s ecologist and she said, Unless pain is transformed, pain will always be transmitted. is so true. And we are responsible for ourselves and not anyone else. Yes, our children, their well being. But again, it goes back to this. We take care of ourselves and then we take care of our children. It always goes this way. Number one is you and your essence and then everything else will fall into place.

Victoria Volk 24:57
Absolutely 100% Can you speak a little Little bit to how in some religions that mediums psychics Well, first of all, you’re not are you a psychic, you’re a medium.

Sirry Berndsen 25:13
So everyone is born psychic. So that is the first given we’re all born psychic is the sixth sense, you know how like animals, all animals, they have the sixth sense. versus if there’s an earthquake, the animals, they know how to run to the higher areas or regions, like when there’s a tsunami, they knew how to run up to the mountains. And so this is the sixth sense, it is born, it’s, it’s we have it. So everyone is psychic, but there are those people that dive into it, and are those people that choose not to dive into it. And I think though the more people begin to study science, they leave the intuition behind, although Einstein was really quite spiritual, because he has says things like he said things about the sort of the mysteriousness of the universe, and all of those things that you have to sort of when you have a scientist that is able to be also spiritual, you’ve got a really nice combination. So my take on so when it comes to the psychic and mediumistic, there are some people that are born with them mediumistic ability, so what it is, is a frequency, it is not just a frequency, but it’s also a source of frequency, it’s a vibration. And I used to say it’s, it’s in your brain. And they’ve also now they’ve done studies on the god gene. And I’m beginning to believe that there’s no such thing as a god gene. Because if you’ve looked at it this way, who would ever surrender the life to live in a monastery for like, a whole entire life or back in the day was none raised. And you know how, like, there’s some people that will sit in meditation, and they will just really thrive in meditation. So there’s, there’s a thing I believe, as a god gene. And so when it comes to the mediumistic things, I have been teaching these now for many years. Even people that say that, Oh, I’m not getting it, I have this intuition about how to get them to the point of being able to say what they are perceiving in their mind, because when it comes to spirits, it is reception and perception, reception and perception. And so if we begin to open up either the hearing or the seeing and allowing us, like if we allow ourselves to really sort of fall into this path of feeling spirit around us, if we feel them, we can see them, we can hear them. And that is just sort of simply blending and merging with them so that you can process what they’re bringing to you. And I think that the more of us that can come closer to the connection to spirits, the kinder, more wonderful Earth on planet we will have. And so there are people that are born mediums, but everyone is born psychic. So there’s this difference in those two. So, every medium is a psychic, because we’re all born psychic, but not every psychic is a medium.

Victoria Volk 28:03
Gotcha. And I you know, I personally have recognized that well, and you can speak share your perspective of this, but I feel like grief really kind of shuts off the valve of our intuition in a lot of ways. It did for me anyway, like I was very closed up in like us so similar. I was I wouldn’t have called myself atheist, but I really blamed God for everything that happened in my life and was like, nope, ain’t gonna do you know, by not going to have it and I believe to like, you go on the ground and that you that’s what happens, you die and there was no feeling a connection at all. There was no I didn’t feel it. And it wasn’t until probably in my early 20s when I heard something that shifted everything for me and really sparked a curiosity back in my heart. And that led me down a different path and changed my life really, which led to later grief recovery, which opened the floodgates like grief recovery for me my personal work opened the floodgates I became a Reiki Master that like just like put the valve on overflow, you know, so I feel connection now. I feel something I never did before. So can you speak to that? So bit more to

Sirry Berndsen 29:40
Yeah, so when you were talking I was just thinking like prisoners. They say about every seven years we go through these cycles and those people that are really into into astrology that know about the seven year cycle, I think it has to do with I’m not an astrologer. If I remember correctly, though, I think it it has to do with Saturn return There’s a term that I like I understand the basics of it, but I don’t understand the full extent of it. So every seven years so most likely when you went through your epiphany probably was around the age of 21 give or take, right?

Victoria Volk 30:12

Sirry Berndsen 30:13
Yeah, yeah, it’s the same thing you know, I mean my case I think I was about maybe, I think it was maybe 29 or so do you know like, it’s really close to the 28th year and so it’s like every seven years you go through these shifts and changes and so it’s a seven year cycle. And it’s like they also talk about if you go into the ocean, they talk about the seventh wave is the big wave. It’s really interesting and also if you do numerology and you look at the the essence of numbers the light the number seven is considered to be the most spiritual number four, if it’s a life number, like if you calculate your date of birth, you can see what you like pup is numbers of fascinating

Victoria Volk 30:58
they are I’ve always been fascinated with numbers I was an as a kid, it’s interesting because as a kid I, I was into, like, I was the kid that got like the poem book from scholastic palm reading book and, and the astrology books. And, you know, so I was that kid, but I really wasn’t like, I really hid those interests. I didn’t share those interests with, with others, you know, but it’s interesting how life comes full circle doesn’t, isn’t it? Like, yeah, full circle, like I’m coming back to all that stuff. And, and my faith, though, and that’s what I would like you to speak to, too, because I am Catholic. And I’m a convert, actually. And for anyone who’s listening who did not know that, and so can you speak to maybe that piece?

Sirry Berndsen 31:49
So yeah, so this is interesting, because I’m, I’m getting close to becoming a minister. I’m doing a training. Yes, I’m doing a training under Reverend john and havik. She’s up the journey within and becoming a spiritualists minister. Because I love to study I love to learn, like if there’s anything that I can study, I’ll take it on. I even applied for a Ph. D. program a few years ago, and I got accepted, but at the time, I didn’t really have the time or the money. So I decided not to do it. But so yes, when it comes to religion, I think that theology and religion is an interesting thing. It’s such an interesting, fascinating thing. And I think because from my perspective, because I’m so open to different religions, I have people come to my office or have zoom sessions with me that are of all faiths. Granted, I come from a Protestant Lutheran background was just going to navy and but at the same time, never practice any of it. But we’re also pagan, because we believe in the old gods, you know, the Odin and Thor and Tiede and all of those Freya and, and then I lived in Saudi Arabia, with with a Muslim prayers, and it was really divine. My roommates at the time, most of them are Catholic. They were Indian, but some of them also were Hindus. And then, surely while after that, I lived in Israel. And so I went from the Muslim culture to the very Jewish culture. Then I have my office in Boston, or in Brookline, Massachusetts is very Jewish, they call it little Israel. And I seem to be able to flow into almost any religion there is because I don’t judge. There’s like, whatever you’re raised with, that is what you raised with. But this has been my perception, many religions, they say to you that Oh, you should not be connecting with the dead. And my heart has always been questioning that. And I think it has to do with back in the day, especially I’m going to only speak about Catholicism from what I have perceived in the last 20 years, because a lot of the people in Massachusetts are Catholic, Irish Italian Catholics. And so been there in the Catholic Church. People back in the Middle Ages, they could not read. And so they started putting pictures into everything. And so and that everything was in latson, to keep people away from the mysticism of the faith. And so they would have the services and lots and and so it was really with Martin Luther, that the Protestants that he was translated into a language that they understood. And so when it comes to religion, if people have the ability to separate themselves from their childhood religions have the do’s and the don’ts or you should do this or you should not do that with very rigid ideas. If people have the ability to separate themselves from that, and then dive into the mysticism of life, or mysticism of that religion, then they really see a lot of doors. Open up. And and I think that not just religion but it’s also cultural practices, you know how like when we think about just for instance, if we think about Indonesia, most of Indonesia is Muslim. And but then when you go over to Bali, it is mostly Hindu. And they have a totally different way of living, but it’s just an island of Indonesia, it’s the same.

Sirry Berndsen 35:28
It’s the same governments, but the big island is Muslim, and the small island of Bali is Hindu. If I remember correctly, I think there were also some Buddhists that I can’t remember. But there are some faiths that keep it really simple. And they really preach about living in compassion, which is a Buddhism, Hinduism, they helped many, many different gods. And then there are those that question like, Well, why are you worshiping all these different statues? My thing is, let them do whatever they want to do, like whatever brings them joy. And I also do know that there’s a lot of people that sort of frown upon the Islamic religion. And people that also again, they have to separate the ancient religion of Islam. And they have to separate that from what later on became, what governments were trying to dictate to the women, for instance. And why is that? Because they would have the women cover up on all of those things, like I questioned everything. But I do think that it really comes down to this, that God, or goddess, whatever you want to believe in, did not create religion, religion is manmade. And for that reason, if you can remove the sort of the history or the, the rigidness, of religion, you set aside, and then you go into the aspects of prayer. And what is this essence of God? Now I also have this thing that I think that god or goddess, I don’t see, God has a gender, God has an essence lives within each and every one of you are God, I am God. And when we see the godliness within one another, we then are able to see the kindness in one another. And I do believe that we all have God within us. And I find it kind of interesting sometimes I get into this conversation about people that are obviously like race with race within a very strict religion. Doesn’t matter which religion is they they believe that’s how, and early on in my work as a medium. It was a kind of an interesting this. This says you asked earlier you asked if there was one session that stands out from another. There are so many that stand out like I had, I’ve done sessions with people that pass 911 or their witnesses. And I’ve done sessions where there was murder suicides. And I remember this is years ago, there was a there’s a woman, her name is Beth. And she had three girls, and she was dating a guy. And the religion was not going really well. And one of the oldest girls and she decided to go to Florida with some friends. So she had flown out of Boston. Meanwhile, Beth was at home with a two young girls and the dog and the boyfriend was upset and he comes to the house and he shoots the youngest girl in the hallway. And then it comes into the bedroom where Beth is with her middle daughter and he shoots the middle daughter and sister her lights out. And then she was the mom. Mind you. He also showed the dog. And then what he did, he walked on to train tracks and he committed suicide. So now we toiled over a murder suicide with one of the girls was away. Thank god the girl was away because that kind of like saved the lives of the two sisters. And so when she had London in Florida, she was trying to call she was trying to call mom, but mom didn’t pick up and so then she frantically started to call her dad, her mom and dad were separated. divorced. So she started calling dad and dad Okay, he’d go over to the house and he’ll check out check up on mom when he entered into the house where he saw that the youngest daughter was shot in the head in the hallway and the middle daughter was in her mother’s arm shot in the head to what is interesting is that the two girls survived. But mom passed away. And so there was a there was somebody that came in for a session with me and I brought everything through and then at one point they said well, so he committed suicide. Where is he? So this is what was a huge learning lesson for me. So I was connected to Beth the mom and I was able to see everything through her eyes. Like I saw the whole entire thing unfold and I saw everything through her eyes. I remember that I asked her like well where are you see since he He shot you all, and he killed you on the bog. Where is he? So when bad people commit crimes,

Sirry Berndsen 40:10
they go to heaven, but they go to what I call special ed. And so there’s no such thing as hell on people, they need to sort of wrap their heads around, there’s no such thing as hell. This is one place that we all go to, but we go to different levels, it’s like going to a classroom or go to a school. And those that have done amazing work kind work, compassion work, they go into the higher grades is sort of like going to ninth 10th 11th grade. So what happened with him, he was put in isolation. And so in my mind, I could see her, she was able to see him through sort of, in my mind, it looked as though she was looking through like a one sided glass, but he did not see her. And so he was there in isolation. And, and then he had these spiritual beings, sit with him, and teach him about the lessons. But he had done. And so there’s no time in this world. And this is something that a lot of people have a hard time grasping, there’s no time in the spirit world. Now, would he be there for a one year and like in the perception of the humans on earth plane? Or would he be the mugger nobody knows. But it’s very clear to me that he would be in this isolation, and he was, is kind of an infant learning how to walk again. So he’s shown how to learn the impact of what he had done. And his soul also had to really work through the atrocities that he had committed. And with the spiritual beings, and they were guides and angels that we’re trying to sort of bring the lessons to him. Now, there’s another aspect of this also, which is Michael Newton, Michael nooner, he was a psychology PhD in psychology. And he wrote a couple of books, and one of them is destiny, or souls. And it’s a great book, and I recommend it to everyone. And it’s one of these books that you kind of had to read it. And then if you don’t quite grasp it quite yet, you have to sort of go back to it and read it again. Or you can also get an audio book. So he talks about and also Brian Weiss talks about life between lives. And so for instance, we could then also perceive it this way that perhaps this guy, he was put into this base of life, he lives and we all come to this earth plane with lessons that we need to learn, and the soul, how we work through those lessons, it is up to the soul to grow. And some things are already decided upon before we come to Earth. Francis, before you came, Victoria, it was already decided that you would meet your husband, and you would have the kids to know like, there are specific things that are decided. But also there are things in our lives that come into our pads that depending on how we cope with it, how do we cope with it well, or do we not cope with it really well, that can really, sometimes interfere or veer off of the road a little bit. But for the most part, we have specific lessons we have to go through. So I’m going to share this one thing that I’ve been going through this last year, it’s been sort of in the background, quite a bit in the past few years. But this past year really, really pushed me as a medium and grief person a little bit over the edge. And this is what it is when young people in this in this climate in this day and age when young people in America growing up, they are faced with so many drugs. And it is absolutely devastating to see in this past year 2020 I saw more suicides and overdoses in my practice that in any previous year.

Sirry Berndsen 43:59
And it made me think I reflect on this. Why? And it comes down to this and what like my philosophy today it comes down to this. I do not think it is the parents fault. But I think it is the I don’t know if it’s the government’s fault, if it is the society how it is built up if it’s the school system. I’m not here to play like I’m not here to blame or point the finger but I think people need to be aware of what is going on. When does it start on where does it start? And so recently, a friend of mine, she said she’s got a couple of teenage girls, and she said to me that Oh yeah, like one of our daughters is on Prozac. And I thought to myself like was his only like 14 like, that’s really young, isn’t it? And she’s all well it’s considered to be normal like the, the nurse will call it call them up to the nurse’s office. I’m like okay, here’s your medication for the week or for the month. And I think it was like this is absolutely insane. But it started making sense to me. And so I’m even in America, I think it’s probably America is one of the most medicated countries on the planet. And where does it all starts? is Big Pharma? What does that lead into? Like if a child is overactive is a child is just really hyper that is immediate, like there’s a label on it, it has add, or it has ADHD. My thing is, Well, how about fixing the child’s diet? How about taking out all of the ingredients in the food that are not supposed to be there? If you cannot, like if you reading a label on a food product, and you cannot understand it, why are you feeling that way? Child child references, Pop Tarts? What’s in it? All these ingredients that are just nobody can pronounce toxins? What does the toxins do to the gut bacteria? We talked about children that like three or four or five years old, this is where it starts. And so the responsibility really goes down on that aspect, it goes down to the government, because the government says, Oh, yeah, you can put these things on the food, and that’s okay. And so the children becoming sick, the microbiome is becoming sick. And then they begin to develop these behaviors that are not considered to be rational. And then they roll up in a system that Oh, yeah, let’s suppress this symptom. And then if that doesn’t work, let’s try another one. Instead of instead of getting to the root cause of the issue, because the parent may be the most loving, caring parents, but they may not know what they’re putting the child’s bodies. And so as children are growing up, and then they like they’re put on Prozac, or they put on Xanax or they put like they put on medication for different things that should be treated, it’s not suppressed. And so this past year, I’ve noticed that children I mean, to me that children from the age of like, 16 1718, up to like 20 456, the amount of young people passing because they cannot cope, suicides, overdoses, that has really touched me on a grief level in this past year to put up like, I’m going through this whole ups, I’m upset about it, I’m angry about it. And but I’m turning that anger and frustration on sudden as I’m trying to turn it into more education. And so when people come to my office, I, when I intuitively I know, I know that like this little tiny little tweaks that they could do to get it better. You know, I point out to them, I’m looking to the microbiome, because the tummy is the second brain. And I tend to think of it this and we have the brain, we have the heart and we are the tummy. We have to love a three to work together in unity, to have a healthy family. I went off a little bit but yeah, that’s this is in the past year where my grief has been sort of absorbing this young people of America, exceptionally talented people with such great hearts. You know, it’s just my heart goes out to the children, to the parents, to the mothers to the fathers to the siblings.

Victoria Volk 48:13
And it’s, I think to it comes down to the lack of support within a family unit, whether it be support from the community or support from the healthcare system, which is overloaded already, you know, there. And I think, when I hear my bandwidth again, is we talk about mental health. Yes, I wish we would take the word mental out of it, which would be emotional health. Yes. What is what will serve us in our emotional health? And you don’t work through emotions by popping a pill.

Sirry Berndsen 48:55
Exactly. That is likely that is exactly what I’m talking about.

Victoria Volk 48:59
I’m reminded of a podcast interview I did a while back with Jordan Brody. And he was he’s an openly gay man, and really struggled as a child with bullying and things like that, despite having a really supportive, loving, you know, father figure in his life, he, you know, just had other challenges, and really embracing right being a child that recognizes that they’re different. And where he obviously said he felt different, but he was put on medication as an eight year old, an eight year old. That’s an anxiety you know, and depression and add, I think ADHD, one of those, but he was brilliant. He was really smart. He was in a, like a gifted program. And he found himself pretending to be dumbing himself down for others and has created so much grief, like he couldn’t even authentically live who he was his, his essence, his soul of what was his soul was wanting him to be and live into. He really suppressed all of it. And it started with, you know that medication didn’t help. Right? Right. And as an adult, you know, when I interviewed him for the podcast, he has been off medication, he’s not on medication anymore. He’s living his best life, you know, but he dealt with addiction, then, I mean, that set him on the stage of going down a path of addiction. And within a week, I believe of our podcast interview, his brother passed away of an overdose. And he came on the podcast, actually to talk about a loss of his best friend to addiction. Yeah, and you know, so it’s obviously was really it’s prevalent in his family. But why? Why?

Sirry Berndsen 51:03
Why? Well, I’ve been like this last few months I’ve been digging into the why and I think that um, and you’re so right, this should be this should be called emotional health or emotional well being. And, and I think that if you really get into the depth of things, because I actually studied journalism, I studied must mean media. And within that, it was also the the quote, unquote, the propaganda how to sell like there’s not marketing, but how to sell an idea. And if you really think about it this way, when you have large companies, like pharmaceutical companies, putting money towards doctors or hospitals, and paying them, it starts from an early age, it starts from a well with visits with an infant, and well visits to the to the pediatrician now includes years, not just the weight and everything, but it also includes vaccination and large nations. I question those two today, simply because we do not need to put what is it 72 vaccinations and in an infant, and within the first two years in America, it is absolutely insane. And so I think that it comes down to this, the big pharma, they have way too much power. And from the moment a child is born, they have way too much power in a child’s life. From a well visits to the first few years, the more that can give like the more that can give pills to the children. And that’s where it starts. So in other words, I think that in so many ways, the big pharma, they are sort of the they’re the drug dealers with the license with a golden license. I think the other thing also, I thought about this a lot, I don’t think that a lot of doctors, pediatricians are educated about the side effects on the long term effects of these things. They are, I think a lot of them are just going by faith. Somebody a rep comes from a rogue company, and they say, Oh, we have these these these is seen as sort of like a shopping cart. Would you like some of these so you can give to patients? And I think this is where it all starts. And I really my heart goes out to the American youth because of this. Young people, like you just said with him. He himself was like he was put on these medications from an early age. And then he was on the podcast to talk about his best friend and then his brother passes away. When is enough enough? Because it all starts somewhere. Yeah, you know, and instead of instead of putting them on drugs, why not then create a group gathering we have these young children coming into someone’s a wellness center, and they learn to sit in meditation or they learn to sit in the quiet and they learn about nutrition, and they learn about the blueberries and raspberries and they love like they learn about the herbal, herbal remedies and they learn about the wonderful things that nature gives us. Like I said, I started listening to audiobooks by Rudolf Steiner. And he was the one that sort of started the whole Waldorf. Are they the Waldorf School is that based on his ideology, and there’s actually a website some guy, he’s read all of his books, it’s on Rudolf Steiner audio.com I highly recommended is sort of an old fashioned way of writing, reading and listening to it, but it’s well worth it. But I picked that up. The closer we can come to nature with our children, the brighter future we will have with the children and the more we move away from the Big Pharma on the popping the pills, the healthier youth we will have, it’s the future of America lives. In the arms and the hearts and the hands of the youth and the parents, but it’s the youth of America that will be able to build up the country to its greatest glory that I want was amazed me think of when you mentioned about like, you know, a center, like a youth center where they can learn these different things. It’s like mentioned meditation, it’s learning coping skills. Yes, like,

Victoria Volk 55:22
but here’s the thing, like, as adults, we don’t necessarily cope very well, either. You know, it’s like, because I feel like, and I’ve said this so many times, and you can, I think you’ll agree, but adulthood is childhood reenactments,

Sirry Berndsen 55:36
adulthood is childhood via likeness, I can

Victoria Volk 55:39
see that every belief, thought idea, like everything that we are taught as children are our personal experiences that we internalize. And we project all of that, as adults, like we. It’s like, like that cycle, that seven year cycle like these. It’s like, you mentioned that the soul has this lesson it needs to learn. And it was actually mentioned by Dr. Chris Kerr, who is on the surviving death, he talked about end of life experience and has a book death is by the dream and he was on the podcast and talked about one particular experience of an old man who was a war World War Two veteran who, at the end of his life, the deepest pain that he was carrying all his life was came back to heal him, like his comrades came back to heal him. Of all the because he his job was to transport the dead on the ships, and his comrades came back at the end of his life. Oh, wow. And it was, you know, so I think of that and how, like what you said how the soul has this lesson, these I, I feel like after learning about end of life, going through end of life doula training and talking to Dr. Kerr, our soul has this experience at the end of life, probably beyond based on what you what you shared, right?

Sirry Berndsen 57:11
Right. Because I mean, then we have other lifetimes. When it comes to finances with the past life, past life regression. We have lifetimes before this lifetime and our minds. We think of everything as being a timeline. And it is in that light, like on the earth plane, it is a timeline. Everything has a minute, everything has a second, everything has an hour to it, everything has a calendar to it. But in the afterlife, there’s no light, like there’s no timeline, with a set of certain concepts. It’s hard to grasp. And going back to what you just said about touch, both occur. I love his work, I think you also want to was a despot vision. So it’s not like half remember, death has been a dream, or death. Okay. But that was about a dream. Yes. So I was actually talking to a friend of mine in the UK this morning, who’s a doctor who is about to be transferred from the end of life care, being a physician at the end of life care to the ER doctor and, and I said to him, you know, you’re meant to go there. And I think you’re going to be entering the space of prayer. And he’s like, What do you mean, he was pausing. And I said, Well, it was going to be the place of prayer. And, and I talked to him about Christopher curve, thoughts occur. And his TED Talk. And I said, years ago, it did, especially for a woman, this is a long time ago, I did a session that I never forget it. Most sessions I collect, they close my mind for the glimpses of a few sessions that stick in my head. So there was a young lady that came into my office and, and I knew nothing about her. Like, I never know anything about other people. Like when people come to my office, I just look at the first name on what type of session that booking. That’s all I want. I just want the true first name, I don’t care about the last name, they have to have an email so that I can actually email them information. But the rest of it are just first name and what excuse me what type of session and so I knew nothing about her as she comes to my office. And before I was going into my office, I felt there was this amazing light around her and I didn’t understand what it was. But it was almost as if there was this huge choir of light beings that were like following me to this appointment. And in my mind’s eye, I saw her as if she was she the the person in my office, she was done in front and central like the soloist, and this big choir of lights of beings behind her. And then in the session, I said to her, like I see that you work with people in a healing in a setting with the hospital in a healing setting. But there’s a lot of people in the office life I want to come forward and thank you and there was this immense It was like a way was a tsunami of this light. And there was a tsunami of prayers and gratitude towards this woman. And I was able to bring through, like from that big choir, it was like 1000 people more, I was able to bring forth like a couple of them on a gave a really good description of them. And then she said, Well, this was one of my last patients. And so this woman, she was an emergency care physician for many years in the ER, and helping people, you know, survive or die. She was a very prayerful person. And so, and it was interesting to me to see it from the mediums perspective, that she is interesting also, because she was a scientist, so she didn’t see it. But I saw it, and I saw this, it was sort of like the massive amount of it was like the wave of lights behind her was just immense, because she was working in the medical field and helping people die or alive, bring life or bring them into the afterlife.

Victoria Volk 1:01:06
I think the whole theme of this conversation really just comes down to it boils down to just connection, this spiritual, spiritual connection. Yes, of the essence of who we are our own spirit, and how we’re all connected. Yes to each other.

Sirry Berndsen 1:01:28
Absolutely. And I think also the other thing also is how close we are to the spirit world. But I always say they walk, they walk with us, they walk among us. And the closer we bring them into our lives, the closer we bring in the angelic energy, the easier the Kinder, the more loving we become, the easier life will become like when things when we surrender. But instead of going against the instead of going against life, but when we surrender to the gentleness or the wave of life, we then create an easier path. And I see, I think it’s the closest on the spirit world.

Victoria Volk 1:02:14
I see this parallel of we medicalize death and dying, but we also medicalized life. We do, right, but it’s such a good point, both ends of the spectrum. There is no there’s no, where’s the balance?

Sirry Berndsen 1:02:30
Well, where is the Yes. And it has become so scientific. That we have lost sight of the spiritual detached? Yes. Because we are spiritual beings. Having human experiences

Victoria Volk 1:02:50
in a nutshell, yes, yeah, Yes, we

Sirry Berndsen 1:02:53
are. We are divine light beings. Having human experiences and grief, just, um, that grief.

Victoria Volk 1:03:04
Yeah, is a part of it. A healthy part of it. It is a healthy

Sirry Berndsen 1:03:08
part of it. I also, I also do believe that the power of prayer can be so immense, because prayer is such a simple thing. And I’m not talking about prayers in heavenly Father, I’m not talking about those types of prayer, but I’m just talking about the simple voice within your heart, the simple chants the simple. Oh, God helped me get through this day, or like, it couldn’t be very, you know, or God, protect my children. Or if even if we want to call on our ancestors, like mom or dad or grandma, please protect my child today. Those are in my mind in my heart. Those are prayers. And I do and I know that prayers work. I know the power of prayer is immense. And I do feel and I know that for sure that if we went back to the basics with children, and we brought in more meditation, the power of prayer on the essence of spiritual living on the earth plane,

Victoria Volk 1:04:05
we would then have, have a future that is so much easier. And prayer doesn’t need to be rigid. Prayer can be so simple. bring light to this person. bring light to this person. That is it. It’s really letting your heart live in intention. And yes, that energy out with intention. Yes. And I can say personally, prayer did change my life because I prayed for my husband. Oh, I didn’t pray for him. I prayed for someone. Yes. Now this was me not going to church ever right? Yep. Please bring me someone who is good for me. That was it was a very simple prayer, bring someone into my life who was good for me. And I knew my husband. For seven years. We were friends. Yeah, but we had, you know, when he went his way I went mine, we met a junior year in high school, when he moved to my town, but we did not date we did not, there was no like love connection at any point during that time. And with that prayer, all of a sudden, he was like, front and center, relentless in wanting to be in a relationship with me, to this day, it’s like, you know, like, we didn’t look at each other, like, Oh, I’m gonna marry you someday, in high school, or I want to date you know, seven years later, seven years later, right? And I still like, there is no explanation. Like, he really didn’t can even give me an answer. Really, like, yeah, prayer changed my life. And that, that set me on finding a relationship and discovering a relationship with God again, and my spirituality and faith and all of that, like it just Yeah, a very defining moment in my life. But I

Sirry Berndsen 1:06:11
think also this goes back to those that prayer does not need to be a religious prayer. It can be if people want to, like if people want to go to the church, or the temple or the you know, wherever they want to go, and they want to do their prayers in front of their statues. They can do that, like messes with me, I pray all the time, my family, or I go out in nature, I sit on the beach, I will pray. For me, prayer is a part of breathing. You know, it’s just a part of being and it’s a part of breathing. And I pray for the strangers. And I think that when we find ourselves being aggravated or annoyed, but someone needs to pray, we need to send them even more lights, so that we can heal ourselves from that frustration from that annoyance.

Victoria Volk 1:06:58
It makes me think of whole oponopono the four steps of it’s actually just mentioned it with a client yesterday. It’s I’m sorry, please forgive me. Thank you. And I love you. I think before I’m not even sure if it’s in that order. I I’ve have a couple posts coming up about it. But you because really, it’s it is what is within us that feels provoked, you know, what does this person provoking in me, what is it about me that needs to heal that feels provoked by this person? Or, you know, yes, yeah. I mean, I think

Sirry Berndsen 1:07:37
it also goes back to the grief he does, because what happened in our lives that causes grief, though, we then have to reflect on.

Victoria Volk 1:07:49
And that’s what grief recovery does, right? The method itself, does it, it brings to the forefront exactly what needs to be healed. And what to work through in a guided supported evidence based way, right? It’s Yeah, yeah. I’m partial, I’m partial.

Sirry Berndsen 1:08:11
But I was interesting, because you also mentioned earlier that, um, when someone has such you that, like you said, some of you were grief, grief recovery person, and they said, Oh, that is depressing. That was their perception. But I think that we, when we, when we that understand grief on a deeper level, when we come out on the other end, we see all of the gifts coming to us what a gift it is. You know what a gift it is, but I met you on what a gift it is that I met a couple of your friends. It’s a gift, and it all starts with one person.

Victoria Volk 1:08:48
Yeah. Because we’re all connected. We’re

Sirry Berndsen 1:08:52
all connected. And we’re all gifted and we are all a gift to one another.

Victoria Volk 1:08:56
So I want to really give something this has been amazing so far, but for Grievers listening, what is one tip that you would give are hurting heart listening today.

Sirry Berndsen 1:09:09
So this is coming from me as the medium. I think with grieving with grieving people, and I think especially this is the thing I often reflect on what is hardest grief. I, um, there are two rooms that I have perceived to be the hardest ones, and that is the loss of a child. For both mom and dad. Oftentimes fathers have a hard time expressing it mothers that seem to have a little bit of an easier time expressing grief when they lose a child. And it doesn’t matter how old the child is. It could be 3 million old it could be three years old, but the loss of a child is probably one of the hardest. And then also when people have been together like life partners, and when a woman becomes a widow where our mom becomes A winter and they’re so in love with their soul partner. Those are two of the hardest ones it is more. But I think also went out when a young child loses a mother. That’s another that’s probably the third one that is the hardest one to sort of, cope with I think but even loss of a pets can be really hard for a child, but when people um, so for me as the medium when people lose someone, I say, take time for you. Sit with them, sit with them memories, listen to the music you both enjoy and look at the photographs when you feel ready to do so. If you know and here’s a big deal if you know that someone is dying. If you have an older parent or grandmother who was dying, sit down with them and record their stories. videotape them. If you can take pictures, get your phone out, record them and say, Hey, Grandma, tell me about when you Grandpa, when you met, those stories become absolutely precious, more pressures on any stuff. Having someone’s voice on a voicemail is precious, having someone’s having someone telling a story on a video is precious, prepare for those types of things. Because once they’re gone, their voice is gone. So in prep, so in preparation for loss, I think that do everything that you can to cherish each and every moment. Now we don’t always have the time to prepare. But after someone passes away, take time for yourself. take time off from work. And if there are people in your life that are not being helpful, supportive, or conducive to your grief, let them go, someone else will replace them or they will come back into your life if it’s really worth it. But take time to grieve, be kind and be gentle. And let yourself cry. Like just let the tears out. Go into nature, hug a tree, sit in the grass, go on the beach, do anything and everything that really brings you joy. And do it over and over and over again until it gets a little bit easier. One thing that I did want to say is after someone has passed and and you really feel like you want to connect with them. There’s one thing that I’ve said to people make time for the spirits.

Sirry Berndsen 1:12:39
Write them letters, but doing this as a way that if you were to For instance, if you sit down every single time at the same time, let’s say it’s a Sunday evening at 7pm. Or you know that you’re going to have some time during the middle of the week. And let’s say Wednesday evening at 6pm. Make an appointment with your loved one it was pretty well and sit with them. Listen to your favorite music together, have the photograph on your lap have the photo of Next you have a piece of paper and a pad and write them a letter and tell them how much you miss them. And, and if you feel they are coming close, listening, take time, and just write down what they would say to you. Because that is true spirit communication, because that’s when you have the flow. Going back and forth, you say one thing, I miss you so much. And then you may hear this very subtle voice in your head. And it’s there as if they’re back. And they may say the same to you, I miss you so much. It may be a child in the spirit world. And let’s say a mother sits down. And let’s say a mother lost a child unless the child’s name is Rachel, I’m just making up, you know, Rachel, or Amanda. And let’s go with Rachel. So let’s say a mother sits down and she said Rachel, I miss you so much. And then the mom may then begin to feel the voice of Rachel in her mind. And if she brings her closer, if she brings her daughter closer, she made them feel her in her heart. And then she may feel as though her daughter’s speaking to her, write it down, write letters to your child, write letters to not want to miss farewelled make the connection and hold on to those letters and you can always read them back. The more you do this, the more you deepen the connection and the one thing that I would also highlight if you can if people are sitting inside, light a candle praying, pray that they come to you pray that they merge with you, and they will come because they hear your thoughts. So I think that after someone passes away, I think that um, when we feel that our spirit is ready, bring them close so that we can merge with them and we can really, truly communicate beautiful

Victoria Volk 1:15:02
I love that what gives you the most joy and hope a new you’ve been

Sirry Berndsen 1:15:07
asked that because when I was I was thinking um I would say nature nature because it’s interesting nature and animals. Nature is always there for me, nature never feels me. I can walk outside I can walk to the park I can walk to the beach, I can sit there and I can be one with nature. And it never ever fails me. Even in a snowstorm nature’s there. I would say nature. Next up to that is the animals that eat terian I was a vegan for a little while. When I go home to Iceland. I will have fish shrimp, but that’s as far as I go. So animals is the next thing and when I get a chance to sit with dogs or cats even the other day I’ve got a chance to talk to a duck than Shelby and I got a chance to sit with a goats and the god fell asleep in my arms you know I have this connection with animals kind of like St. Francis of Assisi I have because we can also communicate with animals just like we can do with people is the same vibration is just same energy. So I would say nature and animals so that brings me joy nature. And the I think also the mystery of the cosmos the mystery of the universe the mystery of all there is the mystery that lies beyond that brings me joy.

Victoria Volk 1:16:43
I love that because it sparks curiosity for me those things yeah, that brings me joy curiosity brings me joy

Sirry Berndsen 1:16:51
look at the stars and you wonder what is there

Victoria Volk 1:16:55
I have a little follow up to our session that I had with you. And you had share during our session about my youngest and her connection with nature and and that she will Sunday understand the the importance of bees and just nature itself and herbs and in animals just she has a deep connection with animals and things like that two things. I mean, I want to share with you to follow up from our session. And one thing was we just very recently, this is a family from California came to our area and they brought their bees brand new company, they wanted to expand bought a place in our area. So they plan to come back year after year. And they put bees on our land. So we can have honey, we will get some honey and so interesting so that I thought oh my gosh, like that’s crazy. Because the this we’ve you know, we’ve been here for like 1112 years, you know, never had the opportunity to have bees on our land or anything you know, so that’s I found that fascinating. The second thing is a baby pheasant had just walked into my husband’s work all by itself all by itself, like the mother I don’t know if it got you know, yeah. Wouldn’t lost his mother whatever, we bring it home. And my youngest was tried nursing that thing and not nursing, you know, like, yeah, making sure that it got what it needed. And she we had some birdseed and stuffers, some feet like stuff and she was crushing that up and feeding it by hand and putting water in a syringe and, and just really nurturing this baby pheasant just a little chick just at bay thing. And she tapped her foot and it would come to her outside and just really connected to this little baby pheasant Well, after three days, it did die. And she was crushed. Tears. We ended up burying her it was a female. But I just thought back to what you had shared. And the words that came to my mind was because she wants to be a veterinarian. And I know I’d share that in our you know, after you had shared all that I said, Well she wants to be a vet. And why came from for me after that happened was she needs to be a vet for an animal sanctuary. Yes. A sanctuary. Yeah, that’s what kind of came up for me I guess, after that experience.

Sirry Berndsen 1:19:32
So you know, when I when I do my work they flow through because like I put my I put my ego aside. And I was describing this a couple of days ago to someone I would say that 10 20% of my left brain is in full action asking questions. But then I will say at present our brain is in full flow with spirit communication. So the whole life review is really coming from spirit. It is your story and not even from Got the young kids you know I even forgot the you like not talking to you I forgotten the session I find it isn’t that interesting is that I don’t know you and I don’t know your family I’ve never met your daughter um isn’t it interesting how this spirits and I don’t remember like if anyone came through for us it’s like my memory is none like his nail but I find it interesting how this spirits how they know these things this this timelessness that is just absolutely divine and Bs you know it just is bs Isn’t that interesting? Yeah. So I just had to show follow up was wonderful and I do hope as it becomes that for and also I hope that he becomes a holistic that because holistic dice they may I mean they make miracles happen holistic buts and I really hope it’s going to be for a sidetrack but you know what is interesting when I was seven years old I there I remember this vividly To this day I buried my first bird and I remember the lights the light around me and my friend when we hold held a little bird, I think it was a robin or something and we held it on we were so just devastated by the death of a bird and then we put in a little hole and I still remember this like was yesterday the light around us and I was seven years old again seven. How old is your daughter? 12 Oh so she’s going to be

Victoria Volk 1:21:36
I don’t know we’ll see. I guess she wants to that hasn’t changed it’s been few several years but she’s said that

Sirry Berndsen 1:21:46
you can even if she even if she ends up not going down the road of being a vet then she can always be a farmer. And she can nurture love the animals and the plants around her. Yeah, she’s very

Victoria Volk 1:21:59
much Let’s get her hands dirty playing the dirt. In Yeah, that’s

Sirry Berndsen 1:22:05
probably incredibly healthy. Yeah, she’s, yeah. Most kids they get to plan the drugs. Yeah, they’re the healthiest ones of all.

Victoria Volk 1:22:16
Yeah, and we’ve gotten so far away from that to like I remember playing with old tractors and cards and making roads in the dirt and you know now it was outside all day. Every day

Sirry Berndsen 1:22:29
Yeah. I was just a way I was away from my playground was the beach and and it was like walking around to the seaweed I’m playing with the seaweed and also digging in the dirt and it was a childhood. It was a magical childhood. Outside all the time and I remember when I was 10 years old in the summertime we could stay outside until 10pm when I was 11 years old, we only were talking about like June July August, we could sell 10 until like 11pm and then when we hit like 13 we’re able to stay on till midnight. Keep in mind the summers in Iceland. The sun doesn’t set so it’s daylight all night long. So there’s no difference of daylight.

Victoria Volk 1:23:14
I saw a video actually of a woman I made on Instagram are some things from Iceland and she documented like documented that and I’m just like Wow, I can’t imagine I can’t like you know, it’s just something you can’t wrap your head around you will

Sirry Berndsen 1:23:31
have you know, like for instance, when we talk about nature and magic. So now we have a we have in Iceland we have volcano that is erupting. And there’s not one of these big plumes that is coming that is coming up but it’s one of these with a lava field growing and growing and growing and I was in Iceland the other day and and I had been asking people around like you know how difficult is the track to get up there and there’s a well it’s gonna be like an hour and a half walk and whatnot and I’m not in a good shape. Because I live in this city and I don’t get into nature much but I was in a car accident a couple of years ago until my like I’m still paying the price of that, like my walking and everything. But I thought it was like you need to be there. And I walked for probably about an hour and a half up this hill and sort of up this hill and Donna Valley and up another Hill to sit on top of another mountain and I was just watching this lava just sort of spewing up out of this tiny little tidal mountains a mountain that is beginning to be created. I saw this lava coming up and I saw the lava flow and the magic of the earth I mean just thinking about the force of nature that is below our feet coming up through the cross and just flowing like with the black and with a red fire and and it was just absolute Magical to observe because I was sitting on top of this mountain it started raining and that is it started like then it was sleet and then there was hail. And it was freezing cold. But I loved every minute of it. Yeah, we just observing nature coming to creation.

Victoria Volk 1:25:23
When we think we’re in control, right? Oh, yeah, nature reminds us. No, no, you’re not.

Sirry Berndsen 1:25:30
Yeah. Anyway,

Victoria Volk 1:25:31
oh, this was so wonderful. I feel like I could have talked I could talk for another hour easily. But is there anything else, any guided message you feel like you would like to share

Sirry Berndsen 1:25:43
when it comes to refund laws, I would like for people to go within and tap into the depth of love and the depth of love loss. Mercy doot doot. Together, love them love to come to the surface when you’re ready. And when love comes to the surface, you know that you will have this wisdom all around you and you will conquer anything and everything around you. And know the spirit is always in your hearts just so far away. The spirit is always around you. And spirits through the power of prayer will help you work through grief.

Victoria Volk 1:26:23
Thank you. Thank you for being here.

Sirry Berndsen 1:26:27
Thank you so much, Victoria. You’re awesome.

Victoria Volk 1:26:30
Oh, right back at you. And remember, when you unleash your heart, you unleash your life. Much love from my heart to yours. Thank you for listening. If you liked this episode, please share it because Sharing is caring. And until next time, give and share compassion by being hurt with yours. And if you’re hurting know that what you’re feeling is normal and natural. Much love my friend.


Ep 64 | Kristjana Hillberg

Kristjana Hillberg | A Mother’s Heartache & Sacrifice



As a parent, if you had to choose between your child’s best interest or what you personally wanted, you would likely choose what’s best for your child. However, what if that decision meant your child wouldn’t be with you full-time?

Kristjana was faced with a gut-wrenching decision that hung over her head for weeks on end until a moment of clarity struck her like a lightning bolt. But, it came with a whole lot of heartache and guilt. Not to mention one that made a lot of eyebrows go up and whispers swirl around her.

There is no manual for motherhood. And, there’s definitely no manual for divorce with shared custody. On top of that, there’s no manual for being a military spouse either.

There are often many layers to the decisions we must make in our lives that others know little about. However, that doesn’t stop the advice from coming.

Listen and learn from Kristjana’s story. We talk about making difficult decisions via your own guidance system, outward validation, boundaries, tips for communicating with children about tough issues, giving/taking advice, and there’s even a bit about being an empath towards the end of the episode.

I really enjoyed this conversation. I hope you enjoy it, too! And, if you do like what you hear, please offer your support by sharing it with someone you know who would love it, leave a review, or rate it! I’d so appreciate it!  💛



Victoria Volk 0:06
Thank you for tuning in to this episode of grieving voices. Today, my guest is Kristjana Hillberg. She is a content creator, avid connector and freelance mentor. She has 10 plus years of experience and the client experience industry and is driven to help all women that she comes in contact with, unlock their potential and succeed. As a mentor Kristjana, His focus is to empower women to start a side hustle or leave their nine to five job completely to become their own boss hallelujah. She has worked with various clients in industries from entertainment to ecommerce as well as experts in the areas of pediatric sleep and play therapy. Her work has included on brand strategies marketing campaigns, and has been a core team member on a few founding, behavioral and physic physical health teams. Kristjana resides in the Black Hills of South Dakota with her family and she’s a military spouse and enjoys thrifting eating scones at the local bakery and prides herself in being an aerialist in the circus. How fun. She’s also the podcaster of the podcast, your freelance friend, the red door. Welcome. Thank you for being here. We are neighbors. I’m in North Dakota, you’re in South Dakota, so much fun.

Kristjana Hillberg 1:21
I love it.

Victoria Volk 1:23
We do have running water people we do water.

Victoria Volk 1:28
We were just talking about this before I started to record. We I live in a really, really, really, really, really small town, like 60 people. And we do have dirt roads, and so many people from across the country and even the world that I’ve talked with, like why I can’t believe you’d have dirt roads. And I was just sharing with Christiana too. It’s Yeah, it’s kind of a you know, it’s really something to be grateful for. In this moment of when I step out my door, just like you, we step out our doors, and we actually hear nature sitting outside this morning, and just like it might be small might be in the sticks, it might be difficult to have access to things, but I’ve access to nature anytime I want. Right?

Kristjana Hillberg 2:14
Yes. 100%

Victoria Volk 2:17
thank you for being here. And I’m very thrilled to be having the conversation with you today. Because you were speaking about something that has not been talked about yet on the podcast. And something that I’m sure a lot of, well, as you’ve shared briefly before we started to record that a lot of people have an opinion about. So we are going to be talking about the fact that you Well, you know what, I’ll let you share. So what brings you to grieving voices?

Kristjana Hillberg 2:44
Okay, yes, and I’m so glad to be here and share the story. Because I think that, you know, when you’re co parenting, you already have to navigate like such a different plan and structure. And with my situation. It was like a whole new level of learning how to co parent, so I was previously married, we ended up getting a divorce, we had a two and a half year old little one. And we started 5050 co parenting. And a few years later, I met and fell in love with my now spouse, and he was in the military still is in the military. And he was stationed across the state, which I mean, I guess Lucky for us, it was still in the same state just five hours away. And for the first year of our marriage, I stayed apart from him still living in the same town as my ex and my daughter, still, you know, co parenting 5050 doing all the things. And my husband lived across the state and we would just commute back and forth. And we had two homes, two sets of utilities. And if you’ve ever done that, you totally know what that’s like to just have to budget for that. And so I think that there was just already that layer of, of stress and being a new, a newlywed, you know, couple and having to commute and live apart. And after the first year, we found out that I was pregnant. And obviously the question came up, you know, are you going to relocate and go live with your spouse or are you going to stay here? And so this was something that was just on my mind for months and just weighed on my mind. And I think there was just so many questions like,

Kristjana Hillberg 4:45
What do I do? What is the best choice what is the best option for me for him for a new baby for my child who was four or five at the time. And this just ate at me and ate at me and anybody that I would tell, because this is just like a common, a common thing that would come up in conversations, right? Because I was living apart from my spouse, I was now pregnant. And I was also co parenting. So it was something that was discussed a lot or just naturally brought up like, Oh, where’s your husband, and oh, you’re pregnant, like, look at chart Whoa, like, you know, so it just always came up. And so there was this added stress of everyone feeling the need to let me know, their opinions and thoughts about what I should do and what the best option was, or maybe how I would feel, depending on what option I chose. And so I remember going to her Christmas program, her kindergarten Christmas program. And I naturally did everything alone, because my spouse was out here, he couldn’t make it back for a lot of the activities. And I was sitting in the back row alone. And I looked up, and this is making me emotional, I haven’t really talked about this in a while. And her dad was there with his new wife, and both of their families where they’re like huge families with brothers and sisters, and cousins and grandparents, like everyone was there. And it just hit me. And I immediately knew that I couldn’t take her. I couldn’t take her with me.

Kristjana Hillberg 6:33
And not just because I didn’t think that she belonged with me because I’m her mother. But because I truly believe that just because I am the mom doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m like the better parent or the more suited parents. I mean, both of us love her unconditionally, and, and take care of her 100%. But I think it was, it was a peaceful feeling. But it was also heart wrenching.

Kristjana Hillberg 7:04
AndI think that so many, so many questions still fall out after that choice, like, what will this do? In the long run? How will this affect her in the long run? Will she think that I abandon her? Will she think, you know, that I chose Kurt over her? And if so, I mean, how will that affect? You know, like the choices she makes. So there was a lot of just heartache. And I think that heartache would have come no matter what choice I made, like whether I would have chose to stay in the same town, and, you know, have this new baby away from my partner, or, or, you know, whether I would have done what I did, and, and came out here. So I think that it was just a very emotional thing that I really wasn’t sure I had no idea how I would feel I had no idea how others would feel others as in her or what that was going to look like, for co parenting because, you know, I wouldn’t have her 5050 anymore, it was going to look differently. But I made this choice. And we’ve been here now for three years. And I drive back every other weekend. And she’s with us, you know, on rotating holidays and in the summer. And it’s still it’s still hard, like there’s nothing that has been easy or better. It’s it’s just a whole new set of challenges and, and life.

Victoria Volk 8:52
And that’s a lot. I can’t like how they that moment where you realize that you couldn’t take our width. It’s, it’s this moment of I mean, really describe that to to people what that sacrifice feels like because I think that as mothers we do sacrifice a lot of ourselves but for our children, I think it’s there’s a different connection, a mother to a child that other people who don’t have that breathe in their counterpart, the other parent can’t understand. right can you speak to that a little bit what that that knowing of what that sacrifice? Wow, like really? What did that feel like?

Kristjana Hillberg 9:44
Wow, you know like I had mentioned, I mean, I think once that I like in that moment. Of course this has been weighing on me weighing on my mind my shoulders. I remember being almost like physically ill for several months, and not even just because I was pregnant, but because of this, this choice that needed to be made. And so I remember sitting there and having that feeling come over me. And like I said it was a piece and knowing that her staying, she was still going to be very much loved and taken care of. But it was so scary. And also so I think I felt guilty. I felt guilty for thinking that it was an option to leave. And I think that sense. I mean, it’s been three years since since this choice was made. But I think since then, I’ve just read different things or experienced different things where I’m like, it almost it’s, it’s been a comfort a little bit. So like even reading untamed by Glennon Doyle, she talks about how oftentimes mothers become like martyrs, once they have kids, like, it’s like, oh, now I’m a mom. And now I like that is my job is to like Mother, you and you are like the center of my world. So I totally understand that. And I now have three children. And I, I do get that. But I also think that I’ve also tried to live my life where my children are a huge part of my world, but they’re just, they’re an extension of me. They’re not, they don’t define me. They don’t define all that I am. And so I think that it’s been as hard as it’s been. And as, you know, the guilt that came with it, the questioning, I also think that this was the choice that that I needed to make. And I think that even just like reading that book, or hearing from other other people that Yeah, they may not have had the same experience.

Kristjana Hillberg 12:01
But you know, kind of the same, like even thinking about military spouses, sometimes like, the the active duty spouse will get deployed for a year or two years, and that spouses is left home with the children. And so I think, kind of like, in our case, I’m lucky to our I still get to see her all the time very frequently. And luckily enough with FaceTime and zoom, I mean, we can FaceTime really whenever we feel like it or hop on the call. And it’s not that I feel like I’m necessarily missing out, I think I’ve really had to try and put my feelings aside and just think about how can I best support her in this because it must be really hard to live with a parent, you know, who parents this way, and then also a parent who parents a completely different way, and manage having the the commute like five hours, if she’s going to come she has to sit in a car for five hours. And then when she goes back another five hours, so it’s been very, I’ve had to really focus on how can I, you know, support her through this validate her feelings and not make it about me? And I think that was that’s been, you know, eye opening as well. I think that sometimes I think that I’m selfless. And then you’re you know, you’re put in these situations, and, you know, it’s like, Oh, poor me, or this is so hard for me. And I’m like, oh, but it has to be doubly hard, you know, for her. Like she already has divorced parents, it’s probably even extra to now have to think about the distance that’s between us. So I think that that was really humbling throughout this entire entire journey.

Victoria Volk 13:51
As I’m listening to you, I’m like, wow, it’s a lot of emotional intelligence. Right there. Did you always have that? Or has that been part of your growth through this experience? Like what? Because the way you talk about it now, it’s, it is like this piece of knowing that you made the right decision, and you continue to do make you continue to make the right decision, but also this really strong, empathetic, empathetic compassion, to really put yourself in her shoes. And I think really, that’s what is oftentimes missed when it comes to children because children is seen as resilient. And that drives me nuts. It really does. Because children don’t choose to be resilient. They’re put in the position to have to be resilient.

Kristjana Hillberg 14:44
Yes. Wow. Yeah.

Victoria Volk 14:46
I’m curious how that evolved for you. Like, was that just something that’s innate in you, or do you feel like that’s something that is, have you had previous experiences I guess I’m gonna get Have you had previous experiences in your childhood that have shaped? how you came to this decision? And how you’ve continued to navigate it? Yeah, that

Kristjana Hillberg 15:14
It’s a really great question. And and No, I don’t think that it was just natural for me. Because I think that, and I mean, maybe other women who are, who are mothers can relate as, as a mother, I naturally feel like, my children should be with me, like, I’m the mom, I’m organized, I’m dependable. I have their schedules memorized. Like, I’m, I’m versatile, I can multitask. Whereas not saying that my spouse isn’t like a phenomenal dad. But it’s just a totally different, like, he’s way more like laid back. And like, Oh, I didn’t realize that all of these things went into, you know, getting everybody ready in the morning. Like, it’s just such a different aspects. So when I was thinking about this, I’m like, Oh, my gosh, you know, yes, her dad is is a wonderful dad, and he has a spouse, now a partner that can help him, but will they take care of her as good as me, but then I almost had it, then there was like, another voice in my head that was like, she will be taken care of like, it’s okay. So I think that it was like this, almost, you know, two voices in my head, where it was, of course, those questions came up,

Kristjana Hillberg 16:32
or, you know, I would have done that differently. But I think that that’s just natural, whether you are divorced, or whether or not whether or not you live in the same house with your partner, like, I think it’s very natural to probably have those questions like, I could have, you know, done that a little bit better. I wouldn’t have done that. Exactly. You know, the way you did, but I also think that growing up, I mean, my parents got divorced when I was 14, but it wasn’t really a surprise to me, they didn’t really have a great relationship. I remember wondering if they would get divorced, growing up, just like having that question. I believe I did ask my mom that a few different times. And then, you know, my dad made a choice, you know, when I think I was, you know, a freshman or a sophomore, and they decided to split. And it was almost more of like, refreshing that it wasn’t like a elephant in the room anymore. It was just like, oh, okay, that’s finally happened. That’s great. And I think that kind of like, what you touched on is that people say that all the time is, oh, they’re your resilience, you know, you’ll be fine. And I think that that is so normalized, like, you’ll be fine. I mean, we even say it like, consistently like, Oh, it’s fine. It’s okay. Like, I’m okay, I’ll be fine. But I don’t think that we validate our children’s feelings enough. I mean, and I’m still working on that, and not telling them how they feel like, oh, you’ll you’ll be okay. Which obviously, I think, looking at big picture, like, yes, she will learn how to deal with it or cope with it. And ultimately, you know, quote, unquote, should be fine. But I still think that it’s so important to validate that she’s upset right now or sad right now or has questions about it and, you know, struggles with want not wanting to drive across the state, which I totally understand or now that she has, you know, two siblings here and a sibling there. It’s hard for her. And I think that just me showing up and saying like, wow, yeah, that sounds really hard. Like, I’m here to listen, instead of being like, well, you’ll be fine. It’s fine. Like, everybody does this, or everybody has siblings, like it’s a part of life. I think that instead of brushing it off, it’s just so important. And I think that I wish that I would have had that. And I think that, you know, all of us as adults now can look back on our childhood and be like, oh, wow, okay, like this is maybe why my parents acted the way they did, or this is how I wish I would have been talked to or looked at. And I think that that’s all we can do now as parents and adults is to change that and try to do better for them so that they can eventually do better than us. And that’s really just All I’m trying to do. And each day is, is still learning and learning how to navigate it. Especially as she gets older and has different questions and different frustrations and struggles. It’s so different and each child is so different with how you parent them and how you show up for them. And so it’s it’s truly never ending I remember reading this blog and I felt I’m very drawn to it because the writer was also an aerialist. And so I was like, Oh, you know, I wonder what she has to say about being an acrobat mom. And she said, kind of the same thing that I could relate to is, as a performer, there’s always an end that you’re working towards. So there’s like always a performance, right? So like an eight months, you are you are practicing, you’re working really hard for this performance. And then you have the performance that went great. And like, that’s it like you feel accomplished. But with motherhood, there’s never like an end date or like a big performance that you’re waiting for. And then like, Yay, you’ve reached it, like there’s always and then like, even after you have your baby, like, okay, pregnancy was hard, or even pregnancy was easy. And then boom, baby comes. And then it’s just like something else. Like, now your boobs are swelling, and you have to worry about like, all of these things, your body, and now other kids. And so I’m just like, you know, this parenting journey is just never ending. It’s always growing and always figuring out like, truly what’s best for you and not not allowing other ideas and thoughts of what you should be doing to, you know, hold space in your mind. And your thoughts.

Victoria Volk 21:25
Oh, so much to unpack there. And there’s so many layers, there’s so many layers to your situation, because like you said, there’s so many relationships involved, and it’s your children and their relationship to their sister and their individual relationships and the grief that they maybe have when they have to say goodbye and all of these things. And like you said, as she grows older, and as they grow older, and I’m in the trenches of the teen years right now. Oh, it doesn’t get easier. I wish I could say it does. But it just doesn’t it. We I really feel like and maybe you can attest to this, too. Like I’ve been growing up with my kids. Oh, yeah. You know, and I, you know, in the personal development world, people will say things like, you know, don’t have children for your personal growth journey. But I think that’s a natural, I think that’s what naturally happens. I don’t think you can bypass that. Because children are mirrors.

Victoria Volk 22:24
Whatever issues you have in your life personally, like deep down in your soul, like they will emerge through your dad’s not. So I’m curious, you mentioned some things that you resort. I’m curious if there’s certain resources and things that you’ve come across other than the book you mentioned by Glenn and Doyle, but have there been things that have definitely helped you navigate all of these pieces of your story?

Kristjana Hillberg 22:54
Yeah, you know, the first little while when I was still, like making my decision, I would Google all the time. And just try and find anybody who had done this or had experienced like the same things, Oh, my gosh, I was I just kind of went down a rabbit hole of like trying to find blogs or different writings or experiences. And I truly wasn’t able to find a ton with like my exact experience. But I also think that that was really great reminder, is to follow your intuition, your gut and actually, like turn inward instead of googling all the time, right, which I think can just be like a natural thing anymore is that we like Google, you know, what’s this. And so it was just a really great, really great reflection to be like, Okay, you’ve been searching outward for so long, and allowing other people’s opinions and ideas to, you know, just kind of fill your mind, let’s just sit back and like, think for a little bit just like and really marinate on what feels good to you. What’s going to be best for, you know, you incur new baby, for Lily, for everybody that’s involved. And I think that that was where more of the peace came. Because I think that when I was searching for outward validation, and I truly was like, I was seeking for somebody to be like, oh, Chris, it’ll be so you know, this is how you’ll feel. It will go well, and I was I truly was seeking for that. And, I mean, it never came and I said, Okay, well, how can I create the situation that I want? I’m also a huge advocate for nothing is ever permanent. So I mean, I was very upfront with my partner as well and I just said, Okay, this is what I feel like is the best going forward, but nothing is ever permanent. So This really has like a huge impact on her. And we can see that it’s like affecting her. And I, you know, I would like to leave it open that I could potentially move back or that we could revisit the situation and see what else, what other options we have, because I think sometimes we get so stuck in this, like tunnel vision of these are our options A or B. And that is it when really there’s like 20 other doors surrounding us that we haven’t even opened yet. And so I think that just being in communication with everybody, and really having our child at the forefront of Okay, like what’s best for her what’s going to work out, let’s really listen, let’s listen to her teachers, if it’s affecting her at school, if it’s affecting her, you know, personal life, or whatever it is, then we can revisit this. But ultimately, when we look back, I mean, all of her teachers, he would almost be like, wow, like she is very settled and very, like, happy. And he is just adjusting really, really well. It has never been like an issue ever. And I think that that was also comforting to know that she really like she could thrive. And as comforting as it was, it was also a little bit of I think that I had to take the weight off of, you know, your kids will only thrive like with you as their mother. They’re when I’m like, really she knows I’m she knows I’m in our corner, she knows that I will always be there for her no matter what. But I don’t need to be there with her 24 seven for her to be a thriving young woman.

Kristjana Hillberg 26:44
I mean, she she has friends and a wonderful stepmother and family. And so I think that it was almost like it hurt a little bit because I was like, oh, like, she she doesn’t need me in the sense of like they’re with her 24 seven, if that makes sense.

Victoria Volk 27:05
No, it does.

Kristjana Hillberg 27:06
It kind of hurts a little bit because you would like to think like, I’m the mom, they need me. She’s gonna be so sad. Not saying that she doesn’t miss me. But it’s just, it was definitely different than what I had, like envisioned or created in your mind, which I think we all know, that is when we let our mind just kind of take over. It always goes to like the worst scenario like this is going to happen. It’s gonna be awful. It’s and really reality was not that at all.

Victoria Volk 27:37
Well, and I think too, like, I think when this is where I think our childhoods greatly impact us in ways in our adulthood influence our parenting in ways that we really don’t understand or comprehend or really even connect the dots and think about because, you know, with we, because as mothers, and I can speak for this for myself, but when my youngest went off to kindergarten, I had this midlife unraveling, because I wrapped so much of myself in my identity into being a stay at home and work at home mom. So when that was gone when I realized that that that attachment like oh, well, they don’t need me as much, they’re becoming more independent, which is really what I want to deep down because I had to grow up very independent, I had to be resourceful and, you know, depend on my own wits and really raised myself and a lot of ways and so I think that that has greatly influenced me, especially now after I’ve kind of worked through and done a lot of inner work. But when we look at our children, like they complete us can be very smothering to our children and stifle their growth. Because we’re all we’re, we’re latching on to something that we feel is slipping away. But that is really a projection and a reflection of us and what’s going on in us. So I think it takes a lot of introspection, and to really look at the situation for what it is and what is best for them. With your feelings in your emotion in your ego set aside and that’s really hard for people to do.

Kristjana Hillberg 29:21
So another Yeah. Another part of Glennon book talked about that that part that you just brought up was showing your children that you are following your dreams and like living your passion and, and really doing, like, showing them that that you’re still living your life because then it like allows them to feel like wow, like I can live my life. Whereas I think that I mean when you watch somebody, your mother or your father that’s holy Back, then I think that that could potentially affect you later, like, Oh, it’s scary out there. Or, you know,

Kristjana Hillberg 30:08
My dad has always stayed in this place and has never really ventured out like, Is it scary out there, maybe I just won’t do that. And kind of the same thing. So I really like to make sure that my kids are seeing that I’m still doing all of these things that bring passion and light and love into my life and to share those things with them. So that eventually, when they decide to leave, or whatever, they decide that they will feel like, Oh, I watched my mom do it, like, I can do it too, or whatever it is, whether it’s, I mean, she watched me go through a divorce. And then she watched me find love. And she watched me, you know, perform, and she’s watched me travel. And she’s also watched me grow a business. And so I think that all of those things will hopefully inspire her, that there’s no limit to what she can or can’t do. And so I i love that you brought that up is that sometimes when you feel like that’s what defines you, it can be scary when you don’t have that anymore. And so I think, I’m not going to say Luckily, because it’s not luck that, you know, we’re in the situation that we’re in. But I think that I was able to learn that from such an early age, like from such an early age for my kids being so young that now with my younger two, it’s just so different, like the dynamic is so different, where I don’t, I don’t ever think that will ever reach that point where like, they’re graduating, and then I am like freaking out, because I have no idea how I’m gonna, like what I’m going to do, I’ll probably be like, Oh my god, I’m so happy for you by visit us, you know, we’ll be here doing this. And this, like, I think it’s very just like a liberating feeling to feel like, you know, these humans that we’re raising are their own person, like, we’re just there to guide them and support them and validate their feelings and talk to them about all the things and let them know that questions are okay. But then other than that, I’m like, they pretty much will figure it out, you know, for themselves, what feels the best to them. And I think as long as we keep that at the forefront, like, how does this work for you? How does it feel for you? Like, what can we do to support you, I think that that’s totally setting them up for success rather than us dictating all the things all the time,

Victoria Volk 32:41
right, and being honest, right? Like being really totally honest. Because you could have, I mean, as another transition happens, as your kids get older, and maybe things change, and the situation has to change, it’s like being completely on. And I think that’s where a lot of people miss miss the mark. And that just being honest with your kids, I don’t know what this is gonna look like, I don’t know how this is going to turn out. But I want you to know that anything that you concerns or anything that you can talk about it and you can, you know, it’s just giving the child a voice, letting them know that they’re being that they’re heard, and that their concerns are heard and that they they won’t be disregarded you might not make and letting them know ahead of time, like I might not make the choice that you want me to make. But I’ll make the choice with your heart as in consideration. You’re taking your thoughts into consideration. I think I love that. Yeah, when you involve them in the decision. Obviously, you can’t let them make the decision for you. But yeah, I just feel like I don’t know, I just felt like a new dimension that. No,

Kristjana Hillberg 33:47
it really truly was perfect, because I heard this reference once, or maybe not a reference. I don’t know was it like a little story about teaching your children how to trust their feelings, and it was saying, okay, pretend that you’re in the backseat of your, you know, you’re driving with your mom, you’re in the backseat. And a really scary accident happens where like you run through a red light, you’re spinning around, it’s you know, you’re very scary. The car stops and your mother looks back at you and says, everything’s okay. Like we’re fine. And immediately you feel this disconnect because your body is telling you that that was a very scary situation and something bad could have potentially happened, where same scenario, the car stops, your mom looks back at you and says, Oh my gosh, that was so scary. How do you feel like can you feel your heart beating fast like and kind of walks you through that? And then says, but now we’re safe. Let’s take a few breaths and just kind of like walks you through the whole situation. It teaches you that you can trust what you felt that that experience was scary. But you are safe, and it’s okay to take a deep breath, cry, whatever you need to do. I think that teaching your kids from such a young age that like to trust how they’re feeling, and then to also teach them that they don’t always have to be happy. Like, we don’t always have to feel good and happy and excited, like, we can feel mad and sad and worried. And those are all completely natural feelings. And then teaching them also, like, Okay, this is what I do when I’m really sad, or when I feel anxious, you know, what, what makes you feel happier when you’re, you know, feeling sad, or when you’re away. And I think just like providing tools, given, you know, age appropriate or whatever tools that they can use that that they know now that they don’t always have to show up and act like everything’s happy and, and good.

Victoria Volk 35:54
Be an example of how how an adult regulates emotions. I actually had a flashback something when you were telling that story, because I had kind of a situation and my kids were a little bit younger, and we were driving and I saw the rain clouds and we’re just going to get on Interstate and I saw the rain clouds and I thought, Oh, boy, I hope it doesn’t downpour at all sure enough, it’s like I knew in my gut, like this isn’t going to be good. And get like 10 miles down the road. It just starts downpouring like so bad. My wipers can’t keep up. I’m blinded by the rain. I can’t Oh, yeah. And I see this 18 wheelers in front of me and and I just started pulling to the side. And I I just followed his lights. And I didn’t even know I saw him starting to pull over but I know it was he over far enough. I didn’t know. I just followed behind his lights. And I didn’t know like, Am I far enough to the side? Am I almost in the ditch? Like, should I go in the ditch? And you know, because my fear was I’m going to get rear ended because someone’s not going to see me. Oh my god was that terrifying? Like in my daughter like she like tears panicked, like, and I was panicked. Oh my gosh. And my heart rates just raising, rising. Just thinking about it. Because it was truly scary. For all of us. You know, and I I’m one I can’t hide it like it is what it is. But it’s been Yeah. Emotionally honest. Like, oh my gosh, that was really scary. Like, how were you feeling like, oh, okay, though we are okay. You know?

Kristjana Hillberg 37:21
Yeah. Yeah. So

Victoria Volk 37:22
yeah, I was like, exact situation, just a different scenario. But yeah, it was, I was gonna say anger is valid to write like, anger is total valid emotion. I think sometimes too, like, anger is an unacceptable emotion and a lot of homes like you can’t express anger. And so that gets so stuck and stifled in our bodies. And, and I’ve seen it in myself, to be honest, I had a lot of anger and resentment. And they say we say in grief, recovery and grief recovery specialist, we say in grief recovery, that resentment is a poison that you take hoping someone else dies. And that’s really what long held anger becomes, is just really it’s poison in your body. But I think it’s very important that as parents, we allow our children to be angry, and to express that. But as adults, we need to emulate what that looks like. Like, yeah. And I give myself timeouts, I tell my kids, you know, I need a timeout right now. Mm. space, because I’m also a umap certified coach. And with umap. It’s we learn how what our values are and how you’re wired and things like that. And it’s been really eye opening for me to just talking about values and thinking about how that when our values are violated or dishonored. That’s how much grief that creates for us. And I think if we can understand what each other especially in a home, family unit, what each person values, it can create a lot more harmony within a family. Oh,

Kristjana Hillberg 38:57
that’s great. I’ve never heard of that. That’s great.

Victoria Volk 39:01
I just got to thinking about as I was listening to you talk to so what let’s get let’s to kind of circle back to the beginning, because I think it’s like I said, I really wanted to I’m excited to talk to you about this because I think there’s a lot of like you said there’s a lot of things said to you that were hurtful. And I want this to be an also an educational piece for people give people a different perspective of loss and grief in a different way. And so what are some of the hurtful and really harmful things that people said?

Kristjana Hillberg 39:41
Yeah, I like oh, gosh, I’ve tried to like nod. But I mean, I think that a lot of people just would revert back to like, Oh my gosh, like how could you like how could you leave her And I think that that was a very resounding like a pretty common a common phrase, whether it was those exact words or you know, a phrase that that meant that. I mean, even my attorney when we were like revisiting the stipulation, because we now I needed to put in like, it wasn’t going to be 5050. And we had to look at different dates and, and all of that she was also kind of like cold, like, Oh, you know, you’re kind of just like getting yourself in this situation, you know, and like, a judge is not ever going to look at your situation and think like, Oh, she should be with her mom. Like, he’s gonna be like, well, she, like that was her choice. And so then, of course, all of those feelings of a little bit of anger, like, Well, okay, yeah, that’s a choice. And I’m marrying a man who’s active duty, but also like, he’s sacrificing his life to also serve the country. So I think that it’s like, a little bit different than just being like, hey, like, we’re choosing to move to Vegas by like, it was totally not that but also, like, made to seem that way. Which of course, hurt me because I was physically and emotionally sick. And so it’s not like it was a an easy decision. It’s not like it was taken lightly. And so when people would make their comments, it felt like all of my feelings and worry and ache was just not taken into account, if that makes sense.

Victoria Volk  42:13
Yeah. And you’ll hear something that I think that here’s a phrase that I tell myself when I’m encountered with a situation that I don’t understand, or seems confusing to me, or this is what I say to myself. I don’t know what I don’t know. And I think if people ask themselves that, before speaking, I don’t know what I don’t know. Would they really say half the crap? They say? Yeah, right. Not, but you know what I mean, like, we don’t know what we don’t know. So there’s, it’s almost like when you take out one letter of a word, it changes the entire word, exactly. It’s the same thing with situations like you take out one little piece or you add in, like you, like just your story itself, there’s so many layers to it, if you understand one part of it, you’re not understanding the whole picture, you’re not getting the whole picture. Right? And so I can, I can just feel, I can put myself in your shoes and just feel that need to like justify,

Kristjana Hillberg 43:19
yes, justify. And that’s what I that’s what it felt like I was doing all of the time, is just justifying anything and everything, like, why I was doing it, how it was going to be beneficial. And then it was just, it felt so heavy, it felt so heavy to carry, but like I had said earlier is that once you stop looking for that outside validation and stop looking for other people to somehow make it you feel better, because it goes back to what you just said, Nobody knows the situation like you. So any type of advice that they’re going to give you is not really going to be in alignment, ultimately, with your situation because they only see such a small, little tiny piece that that really you’re the only person who is is going to know how it feels to you. So I think that once I really decided, Okay, I’m not going to talk to anybody anymore, including my mother, including like my partner’s mother, including anybody that had any attachment to me or this situation. I just stopped I stopped asking and I just almost at that point, it became like, avoidance of the subject altogether. But it wasn’t avoidance because I didn’t necessarily want to talk about it. It was avoidance because I just decided I didn’t want to hear what other people had to say about it. So instead I would just keep it like very brief and very short and whatever it was that I ended up saying, you know, I can’t even remember because it was several years ago, but I just remembered choosing to just not let it bother me anymore. I was like, I’m the only one that’s dealing with all of these emotions, feelings and thoughts already, like, I don’t want to allow other people’s voices in my head. So I think that that was a huge, a huge benefit.

Victoria Volk  45:25
And I think that advice can be applied to grief overall, in general, just yeah, overall, in general, and actually to like with umap, I’ve learned with values, people give advice, based on their values, what they value. So for example, if I value freedom, I might tell you, or even let’s say you value there’s a better example, let’s say you value adventure. And the person that is asking you for advice doesn’t value adventure. The person giving the advice might say, Oh, yeah, like, just sell your all your life savings and, and take a trip around the world, you know, as the other person might be. They might, if they actually did that, like, you know what I mean? Do you value total fun? Yeah, if you value freedom, you’re gonna give advice based on that value of freedom, like, oh, leave your husband, then, you know?

Kristjana Hillberg 46:26
Yeah, oh, my gosh, that’s so true. And like you said, it can be like that, just that information can be used for like all areas of our life. Like when we’re giving advice, or when we’re speaking, to say, I don’t know what I don’t know, also, what are my values? And how am I showing up in this conversation? Maybe I should just validate what they’re saying. And say, like, I’m here, I’m here to listen to you, whatever it is, because really, what’s your most of us want anyways, it’s just somebody to listen, that’s it. Like I hardly ever go into a conversation and want them to like, work out my problems. For me, I usually show up and just want to talk about it. And usually by me talking, I either feel heard, and a weight is lifted, or I like solve my own problem by speaking it out loud, right? It’s like one of those one, one of those. And so I’m just like, you know, if we all just showed up more, and I’m not saying that I’m perfect at that. And by any means I always feel like I should solve someone’s problems. But usually people don’t want that anyway. So just learning how to show up. And just, that’s all you have to say, like I’m here. Whatever you need. And I

Victoria Volk  47:40
think that’s a knee jerk reaction for so many people. And it was me too, for a long time. Just I want to solve it. I want to fix it. You want to fix it for you. I want you happy, you know that I want you to happy? Yeah, you should. You should be happy because your sadness and your anger and your grief and makes me uncomfortable. You You know, so let’s fix you. You’re though I

Kristjana Hillberg 48:02
haven’t noticed too. Like, my mom is very emotional, she cries. Usually when we talk. And I remember for a while, I’d be like, Oh my gosh, stop crying. And I had listened to a podcast or talk talking about that is usually when we dismiss other people’s emotions, because it makes us uncomfortable. And we like that is not okay. And so anymore, ever since because I didn’t know what I didn’t know, right? And so now I show up. And if she feels like crying, I’m just like, I love you. I’m here for you. And I just allow myself to sit and the uncomfortableness and anymore. Like, it’s not really uncomfortable. You know? Like it’s not. It just is what it is. And I think that a lot of the time we and that can be with anything, right? With race, with marriage with having kids with sex with porn with anything. We’re like, Oh, that’s super uncomfortable. Don’t want to talk about it. Can you not share those things with me? Like, I don’t feel comfortable? like can you please stop talking about that when really like, it’s not our job to like, you know, shield what they’re talking about, like, we’re just there. And if we can’t hold space for it, that’s a different thing. Like, listen, I’m not in the headspace. But like, I can give you five minutes or like, let me hug you. Like I think that just communicating, being open, being honest, being willing to be uncomfortable. Those are all huge things that all of us I think, could work on at all times. Like it never ends. It’s like an always, always evolving and growing and learning. Oh,

Victoria Volk  49:39
absolutely. And you said what you all said there the through line to all of that is boundaries. You kind of didn’t mention the word boundaries. But I think when we don’t even know what boundaries look like or don’t even have our own we don’t have them with other people. And I’m reading a book right now about empaths and healing. For empaths and it’s been really like, it’s like, oh my gosh, this book is like this is my life like this is this has been my life because I’m, I’m like a, an energy sponge for people, you know, I take it all in and I’m really starting to understand my childhood more so because I am so empathic and I think if we can understand that too with our children, because you know, to be told you’re a crybaby, or, like even your what made me think of it was your example of your mom, if she is a highly sensitive person and cries easily, and you’re always told, quit crying, quit crying, like, Don’t show your anger, like don’t show your emotions, your body, you will process those emotions with your body. And actually in an example of that, in the book is actually talking about Fibromyalgia because Fibromyalgia has no, there’s like never any pinpoint reason for fibromyalgia like there’s never like, this is what causes it like they there’s so much. But what it really is, is this stuck energy. It really is just stuck energy. Look at any symptoms, physical symptoms that you have. And if you’ve gone to doctor after doctor, and there’s just no known cause, like there’s no reason for it like nothing. No, there wasn’t any trauma or anything. Look at your energy of your physical body. And ask yourself, Am I really highly sensitive person? Do I really get physically drained? when I’m around a lot of people or talked about like holidays to like, it’s like the holidays were made to have to like torture an empath? It’s like,

Victoria Volk  51:49
like written for me. And so yeah, so I think but circling back, and how that what that has to do with your share, is just understanding that we are all built differently. And that if someone seems to be highly emotional, it could just be that that’s how they’re built. That’s how God made them. That’s, you know, you’re an empathic, highly sensitive person, and maybe give a little grace. Like you said, I’d love you, Mom, I’m here for you. You know,

Kristjana Hillberg 52:24
yeah, I love that I love all of that reflection. Beautiful, and boundaries. 100%. I’m like, Girl, we could just talk for seven more hours. But I think that I mean, I, I keep like, branching off, like, here’s the story. And then here’s these little branches off. But to just circle back really quick. I think that once I put those boundaries in place, it changed everything. It changed my energy. It changed how I reacted, it changed my thought process. And it really was, it was just way easier to navigate. Because yes, of course, this hasn’t been like, Oh, I made the choice. And now I’m super happy. Absolutely not. It has still been a range of emotions of frustration and anger and sadness and grief, right? Like you just moving through all of it. But it doesn’t mean that it’s bad. It just is what it is. And as long as I have boundaries around it all like it’s, it’s like a protection like it protects me and my energy and if I could give any advice to somebody who’s going through any type of grief because I think it’s so it’s such a relatable topic, like we’ve all gone through it, we’ve all experienced in some capacity and all differently, which is the beautiful part about it is that we can all have such different experiences, but be connected through that, that same emotion and feeling as really I mean have give yourself grace and boundaries and look inward, instead of looking outward for comfort, which I think sometimes is an easy I mean I’ve I definitely looked outward if through maybe drinking a bottle of wine to try and not think about it, or, you know, just other behaviors that weren’t truly self care. They were more you know, harmful. And I think it’s hard sometimes when you’re in the middle of it because you do not want to feel sometimes you just want to not have to feel what you’re going through and so you try to mask it with anything that could look like anything. But I think that once you just start to show up more for yourself and not for others. But really looking inward, I think that’s what will be like the saving grace of it all and just be able to protect you.

Victoria Volk  55:07
Was there a certain book on boundaries or about boundaries that you found really helpful to you or any resource that you could share? You know,

Kristjana Hillberg 55:15
I was in therapy for a while several years ago and she actually recommended the book boundaries, which I had, I’m like, I’m looking at it. I did not read it. It’s there and I should but I really think that a lot of it was self exploration for me because I grew up with no boundaries. And my mother doesn’t have boundaries I didn’t even know what boundaries were like I honestly thought it was like a service to be available to everyone at all times for anything like I really thought that it that’s like what you did as a human and So up until I mean a few years ago so all of this was culminating at the same time like my divorce being a single mother and then learning how to co parent and then also getting remarried and like figuring out life it all centered around not having boundaries and like not even knowing where to start. And so I think that once I just started experimenting, like what that looked like for me like being like oh, that doesn’t feel good when like somebody shows up at my house unannounced Oh, I can make a boundary around that like hey, if you’re gonna stop by can usually give me a call click like Oh, that’s a boundary or I don’t really like it when we have guests that stay longer than three days Okay, so like that’s a boundary that I have and I know I’m giving like weird crazy examples but those were just things that I had to experiment experiment with experience myself before I even knew and now like I would say I’m pretty solid in the boundary department like I am pretty in tune with myself and like what feels good to me that I feel extremely comfortable expressing that whereas if I were to look back at my early 20s like shit show like I felt like my brain was a tornado and I had no idea why and oh it’s because I wasn’t I wasn’t valuing like my time and energy and space and so once I found these new found you know, boundaries and limitations and like certain things it was a game changer game changer.

Victoria Volk  57:33
Now I actually read the book boundaries and I highly recommend there are several books out there but yeah, and you know boundaries when we have them it makes people without boundaries really uncomfortable. real easily guilted like you’re just supposed to feel bad because your example of don’t show up my door on my door and announced and that’s that’s I don’t like surprises you know, so it’s like well and then then you feel like well you’re not a welcoming person. Right You know, yes like but I am just not in that way.

Kristjana Hillberg 58:10
Like I’m so welcoming come over I want to like I want you to come over I just want to know that you’re coming over and then I can like get in that space but I heard once that once you set boundaries the people who break them the most are going to be the most pissed off right because they’re the ones who are breaking your boundaries the most and so I think that just like you said, it makes people uncomfortable, but it is it will make you uncomfortable at first I think like you’ll be like oh this feels bad like I feel bad about this but the more you do it the more comfortable it becomes and then the easier it is to express like anymore like I don’t I don’t even like second guess like Oh am I gonna like make this person feel a certain way I’m just like oh this is how I feel. You know like we’d love to see you just call me in advance or oh you know you want to come stay that’s really great. You can stay for like two days we live in like 1000 square foot house with three kids and a cat like there’s no room for extra bodies like love you so much but please don’t come over I don’t know we’ll meet you somewhere so I think it’s just once you get used to setting those boundaries I think that it becomes you know, easier.

Victoria Volk  59:20
It’s like a muscle you flex here’s the one thing too I want to say about boundaries when it comes to children and so often is and I’m guilty of this you know when your children are young especially it’s like oh give grandpa grandma hug or you know, give uncle whatever hug you know, we tell our kids to consent. Yeah, put them in your you know, go and get people you know,

Kristjana Hillberg 59:45
like hug this person that’s super uncomfortable. You only see them twice a year do it anyways, it will make them happy. It will make them Yes, yes sir.

Victoria Volk  59:52
Can I you know, give me a hug.

Kristjana Hillberg 59:54
It’s like it will make me sad if you don’t. Yeah, it’s like like, you

Victoria Volk  59:59
know, Like your personal space isn’t even, is isn’t even addressed or respected or, you know, maybe I don’t want to hug them. Or maybe I don’t feel like that maybe that’s not how I express myself. Again, it’s like letting the child develop and grow into who they are not who you want them to be or are like you said to make other people feel comfortable. And those are the early messages we start receiving about boundaries. Oh, yeah. What you want doesn’t matter.

Kristjana Hillberg 1:00:30
Exactly. Oh, yeah. right from the get go. 100%. And I mean, like we’ve said a few times in this podcast already, as I don’t know what I don’t know. And it never used to, like, irritate me or bug me. And I’ve seen it now that it was brought to my attention that like, Oh, this is something that’s just like perpetuated in society, like, oh, here’s, you know, 90 year old grandma, you never see her revisiting, you know, a nursing home that you’ve never been to, I you should give her a hug. You don’t make her feel so sad. If you don’t like we’re teaching them that their actions, like what they do, it’s important to only care about how you’re going to make other people feel. And so just like you said, it’s setting them up almost for like, really bad situations for later on in life. Like for, you know, if they’re dating somebody who wants to cross boundaries, then they remember this, that this over arching theme that was taught that was taught to them all growing up that even if it makes you uncomfortable, you just do it because it makes that person happy. And so oh my gosh, like, now I look at my even like two year old and like if his grandpa’s like, oh, you’re not coming up to the cabin with us, it’s gonna make me so sad. I’m like, oh, doesn’t matter. He doesn’t want to do it. It’s okay, if you make Papa sad, like, how do you feel about it? Like it’s very, like intentionally teaching them to honor how they feel instead of how they’re going to make, you know,

Victoria Volk  1:02:00
somebody else feel well, and again, it comes it circles back to the early lesson of how we look to others to validate us. And so when we grow up that way, we’re going to look to others to make us happy to make us feel better. And really, that’s an inside job, huh? Yeah. So what throughout this whole experience, what is giving you the most joy,

Kristjana Hillberg 1:02:24
I think, I mean, being able to be with your partner is, is great, it was super hard for us emotionally to live apart. So us being together has been has been wonderful. And I mean, even through like deployments and stuff, it’s still nice to know, like we have, we’ve built a home. But that’s also like the the flexibility of it, as well as that, like, if he’s going to be gone for two months, then I can now travel like across the state and to maybe be with her a little bit more. So I think just the, what is that there’s just like having a support of a partner who truly does get it and who’s truly there to like, support you help you through it all, he never has told me once like, you know, this is how it’s affected me or anything like that, like, it’s always about, like, I know that this has been hard for you, you know, how can we make this better, like, it’s, it’s been extremely comforting to have a partner who’s very supportive of it all. And really, I think that it’s opened my eyes to like, who I am, you know, parts of my personality that I had to work on or that were, like, shown to me through this whole thing is that, you know, you can look at, at life and situations differently, it doesn’t need to be like, because it’s a societal norm, like you have to fit into this box like, or this is how you will feel if you do this, like I think that it’s taught me that I can do hard things and that most of the time our brains just make up this like awful shit that will happen. And ultimately, that’s not really what ends up happening. So I think that it’s just, you know, the remembrance that and I know we’ve talked about this earlier because I said we say all the time like I’m fine, I’m okay like I’m fine, I’ll get through it. And so I’m not trying to make light of that because I am fine ultimately. But I also want to to reiterate that this isn’t just like the end journey where I feel like one way about it all the time. It’s still very much so like a journey of feeling all of the things of feeling sad and like allowing myself to feel sad about it or, and to not live in that sadness, but to just be like I’m having a really sad day today. Like I really wish that she was here with us or I really wish that I was there. And then maybe you know if I experience happiness, You know, the next day, like, that’s great, or if I experienced, like longing or yearning for, you know, just to like, see her I mean, that’s what’s nice about FaceTime, too. So I think that just allowing myself to feel all of it, and to realize that, like, that’s just a part of life as well, like you’re not ever just going to be, like super happy all the time that this is just like making the best out of the situation and being willing to pivot if we need to. And yeah, having a support of supportive partner, I think has made things a lot. A lot easier.

Victoria Volk  1:05:38
Having the hope that it’s not permanent. Yeah, exactly. Just the whole thrive together. Yeah, I think it’s amazing, too, I just want to bring, I just want to highlight the fact that there are two sets of parents, raising this child, who are all co parenting, who are looking at the best interest of her. And it may not be perfect, but just the fact that you can speak so highly of the stepmom and you speak so highly of her father, and I’m sure vice versa, it just says a lot about everyone involved. And so I just want to celebrate you. And what you and your family and everyone involved has created this loving environment with this goal of just helping her thrive. And so I think that is going to leave such a lasting impact on her. And so give yourself a pat on the back for that.

Kristjana Hillberg 1:06:39
Yeah, yeah. And I think that as long as we continue to have that goal of just all of us, all of us there to support, validate, help her through whatever it is, and just be on the same page. I think ultimately, like you said, I mean, we’re, we’re setting her up for success. And that, in that sense, so yeah, it’s definitely been a journey 100% filled with all of the emotions and feelings. But we’re blessed. We’ve where we really are blessed to have such a great relationship and partnership, when it comes to raising her.

Victoria Volk  1:07:20
I think I just think it’s amazing. I really do. Thank you. Is there anything else that you would like to share?

Kristjana Hillberg 1:07:28
I don’t think so. I’m like, gosh, I talked for over an hour. I like jump off. And I’m just like, and this and this and this and this. But hopefully, hopefully somebody out there that’s listening can feel comforted or understood or heard or I don’t know, I think that that’s one reason. I mean, I like sharing this story is that I know we’re talking about not seeking outward, you know, a validation, but I think that I even just wanted to hear of somebody else that had had to go through something like this, and I couldn’t find it like I just I searched and searched for. I mean, oh my gosh, everywhere it seemed, and I just couldn’t find it. And so I feel like, even just by sharing this story, even if it’s just as simple as like the CO parenting aspect. I mean, I think it just it brings comfort that like, Okay, I’m not the only one going through this, my feelings are validated, okay, it’s totally natural to have all of the feelings like I don’t need to feel settled all the time. Like I can feel upset or worried or scared at any point of this journey, even 10 years in, or however like I just, I think by sharing our stories is where we truly can connect with people. And I always just hope that somebody on the other end, can feel heard and seen and even just like a little bit of peace in their heart. So

Victoria Volk  1:09:01
I actually think it’s important to validate people’s feelings, I think in the context of validating the decisions we make. That’s where the, that’s where we can hurt ourselves. Because if we are looking to others to validate our decisions, that’s where we aren’t trusting ourselves. Yeah, we’re not if we can’t fully trust ourselves. And that’s kind of a scary place to be right. That’s totally, you’re never really confident in the choices you make. So I just wanted to make that distinction that, yes, validate. Look for validation of your feelings. But at the same time, the differences is if you’re trying to validate your choices and decisions that you’re making, right, like you said, trust your intuition and go with your gut. Like, that’s what really matters, because people will always give their values based advice, right? Yeah. So thank you so much for sharing your story. It’s Like a tapestry, so many different colors and layers. And I just think it’s a beautiful thing that you’ve created in despite the all the unknowns that you got to navigate. So thank you again, and where can people reach you if they’d like to connect with you?

Kristjana Hillberg 1:10:21
Yeah, I feel like I’m most present either on the podcast, which is the red door, or on my Instagram, which is just my name, kristjana _hillberg. And I would love to connect, love, love, love it. I always love having people on the podcast, you want to share their story, or if you want to just connect on Instagram, I’m all about it.

Victoria Volk  1:10:40
Perfect. And I will put the links to the show notes as well as any resources that were mentioned. And remember, when you unleash your heart, you unleash your life. Much love. From my heart to yours, thank you for listening. If you liked this episode, please share it because Sharing is caring. And until next time, give and share compassion by being hurt with yours. And if you’re hurting know that what you’re feeling is normal and natural. Much love my friend

Ep 63 | Struggle to Strength

Takeaways & Reflections | Struggle to Strength


Through the challenges and struggles of life, we often find our strength and learn what we’re capable of as we search for meaning in our pain.

This episode shares two stories of the tenacity it took to dig deep, while also acknowledging the need for help and support and seeking it for themselves.

Rachel battled with her husband for two years as he fought hard to beat his cancer, only to lose his fight to ALL (acute lymphoblastic leukemia) in the end.

Eric battled the struggle of guilt after finding his daughter after she took her own life when she was 15.

Two very different stories but similar in how the human spirit is capable of finding strength through struggle.

It is my hope that Rachel and Eric’s stories, although very different experiences, help you to see yourself through their struggle. And that you, too, feel hopeful that you can find your strength on the other side of the struggle.


Today, I’m going to be talking about Episode 61 with Rachel Engstrom, Life as a Cancer Wife, Widow and Never a Mother-to-Be, and how she shares the story of her husband’s diagnosis and death two years later, as well as how she found her way to feeling better. And Episode 62 with Eric Hodgdon, Opening the Door to a Parent’s Worst Nightmare, and how he went from struggle to strength. He describes a defining moment that set him on a path of empowering and leading himself through his devastating and life-shattering loss.

Human Spirit is Stronger than Anything that Can Happen to It

When I’m hearing the stories of Grievers who come on my podcast, I try to put myself in their shoes and through their story, feel what might have been like to go through that experience. And what struck me about Rachel’s story is the time that from diagnosis until her husband passed away and still holding on to hope that entire time that he would go into remission, and he would be healthy again. But we never really know when our time is up, or when we’ll receive a diagnosis that could drag on for years and years. I know people who are on dialysis, or who have been on dialysis for many years for their kidneys. And it takes a toll on people’s mindset. This is where the human spirit is remarkable in adapting to our circumstances. Whether you’re a child who’s being abused, or an adult who’s going through a terminal illness, the human spirit learns to adapt. And I think we find our resourcefulness in times of struggle and challenge. And that’s just what Rachel and her husband did. They found their resourcefulness and had support come in to help them. Her parents had lived with them for quite some time during that period. And I just imagine that had they had kids at that time, that would have been even more helpful. And I think we get so scared to ask for help and support. In those times, we think we can do it all, or we should be doing it all, especially as mothers and nurtures, we think we should be doing it all. And I personally had many challenging times asking for help and support of others. I’m only learning now in my later years that support is really where it’s at. Whether it’s in grief, in our grief or in our businesses, just bringing on support in and help which I did this year which has been incredible. So I think that is probably one of the lessons that I’ve learned in my grief recovery and talking with other gravers and hearing their stories. It’s in the support that you find your own strength in a lot of ways because when you are able to take a break, when you are able to just step back for a moment that can help to recharge your own battery and tackle the next day. And that’s a huge takeaway in Rachel’s episode, and in many episodes. I wanted to highlight that it’s important to ask for support, and whatever that looks like for you.

Be Compassionate to Others

I love this one line to where a friend of hers had told her you can choose to be bitter or better. And that was kind of a turning point for her. She didn’t want to be bitter anymore, she wanted to be better. And after her husband’s passing, she started to pick up the pieces. And really wanted to find some meaning in her experience and it ended up writing the book: Wife, Widow, How I Navigated the Cancer World and How You Can Too. And I’ve talked to many Grievers who, through their stories, through their experiences, you want to find meaning for what you’ve gone through, you want to make something of it. And that’s been really a common thread. And also, among all of the guests that I’ve had, whether that’s helping others, or in a quiet way, it doesn’t have to be writing a book or it doesn’t have to be becoming a grief recovery specialist. It can just be a more compassionate friend, or spouse or what have you. Because I do believe that the more challenging experiences of our lives have makes us more compassionate people towards others. And after a year in of this podcast and listening to people’s stories, the other tip I would give to as the quickest turnaround to feeling better is to helping others. And that was really a turning point for me personally as well. And that’s been Rachel’s work as well. She’s really been an advocate for acute lymphoblastic leukemia and, and really just cancer in general she’s really tried to raise awareness and money as well. So there are many people doing amazing things in this world because of the challenges they’ve experienced. And Rachel is one of them.

Heal Yourself First

There is another aspect of Rachel story I want to share in that what if someone  with whom you are in a relationship with is diagnosed with a terminal illness, and you are, let’s say the significant other but it’s been a less than loving relationship. You’re probably going to experience a lot of conflicting feelings about that. There’s a part of you that feels like you should help that person, you should be there for them till death do you part, you would want the same for yourself, you would want that person to help you if it were you or support you if it was you that was diagnosed with a terminal illness. But truly, if it’s a less than loving relationship, I can see where during Rachel’s episode she had mentioned that one of the nurses had told her that 70% of marriages or couples separate during cancer. And that struck me but in all honesty, it doesn’t surprise me because I think there are a lot of less than loving relationships out there. I think there are many people who get into relationship who haven’t healed their own wounds. And so you have two people that come together with their wounds, not healed emotional wounds. The other person can be someone who’s either going to help you evolve and grow and challenge you to do that and maybe in hopefully you do that together. Or you can be like the child that picks the scab and you can do that for each other where it’s just kind of a toxic thing. It’s like you don’t know how to be with someone else.

As long as you have this wounded inner child in you. And we’re all walking wounded inner children, as adults, until we recognize that our past and the behaviors that we resort to as adults, and the problems we see in our lives, that are usually repetitive. We find ourselves in the same bad relationships or you find yourself with the same cycle of money issues time after time, or you find yourself abusing different substances, different stage of life. These are the things that are still there, when you get into relationship with someone, marry someone, unless you can recognize and have that awareness of what your issues are, and you work through them either together as a couple, to grow through it. Or you work on that beforehand, which I highly recommend. I would recommend to anybody who is thinking about getting married, to go through grief recovery. You know, they have these pre-marriage classes and things. But I think that the most significant thing that you can do for your future and your future life with someone is to work on your own crap. And that’s what grief recovery offers. It’s a gift to you. But you have to be willing to do the work, of course, and many people are not. And it’s just where you’re at at the time where you look for someone else to heal those wounds for you, you looked for someone else to give you the love that you should be giving yourself. And I could go on a tangent right now, but I’m not, I just wanted to highlight how can it be that in a terminal diagnosis, couples can just shatter. And I believe that’s why it’s the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

Be Your Best Advocate

There is such a level of intimacy and struggle for the person that is both the supporter and the caregiver, but also the person who is the one that is diagnosed. It’s reckoning, it’s an awakening. I’ve never been diagnosed with cancer, but I imagine it is a great awakener. And it’s grief, it is grief. Imagine the grief that it causes someone to just have learned while you have six months to live. It is capable of knocking the wind out of the sails and sinking the heart of even the strongest person you know. And I do think that how you’ve handled challenges in your life before that experience or before that diagnosis is a precursor to how you handle the harder stuff that comes your way. And maybe thinking about how you’ve done that in the past, how have you handled challenging parts of your life in the past. And do you want to be emotionally prepared? and I don’t even know that anything can really prepare you to be honest, I don’t think anything can. Nothing can for this life altering diagnosis, these changes, or these big losses that we experienced, like I’ll talk about next with Eric story, nothing can prepare you for that. But I do feel there are tools out there that can help to support you in discerning what it is you need and helping you to become your best advocate for yourself. And we will learn those things by digging deep into ourselves. And also I want to say that, the worst thing is always what happened to you because no matter what, you will always experience it at 100%. There are no half Grievers out there. So just keep that in mind. So please check out Rachel’s Episode 61: Life as a Cancer Wife, Widow and Never a Mother-to-Be because there’s so much more to her story than I even covered here today. But I do like to keep these takeaways episodes kind of brief, there is definitely more to his story. So I hope you take a listen.

Every Parent’s Worst Nightmare is Losing a Child

Now I’d like to share my takeaways from Episode 62 with Eric Hodgdon, Opening the Door to a Parent’s Worst Nightmare. In 2014, his 15 year-old daughter, Zoi, had taken her own life. And as he shared the story of how he learned about how that was done, I listened so intently. And I could visualize the story, I could visualize the moment as he was telling me, and it literally broke my heart. I have a 16 year-old, a 14 year-old, and a 12 year-old, and just even thinking about it makes my eyes welled up. I cannot imagine. That is why I titled his episode, which I struggled with, on what to title it, but it really came to me, that would be any parent’s worst nightmare. It would just be your worst nightmare. Doesn’t matter how it happened, but just stepping into your child’s bedroom, expecting them to be in their bed, asleep, or falling asleep. And just the unimaginable instead is what you find. It truly hurts my heart. So it was a difficult episode for me to listen back when I had to edit it. But it’s so important for me that I personally edit my episodes because well one, it’s usually a few months from editing. I’m usually a few months out in editing from when we initially record. And so I feel like I need to hear it again in order to freshen up on the story and avoid it to be able to articulate what it is that I felt when I first heard it. And to hear it a second time because I hear every Grievers story a second time when I go to edit. I walk away from editing, just amazed with the tenacity of the human spirit. We can endure so much more than I believe we give ourselves credit for. But in the moment, and the moment of that deep despair and sorrow. It’s really hard to see three? five? ten? years into the future, maybe even tomorrow. And this is why I’m loving in doing this podcast so much, that the people who come on this podcast brings hope to other Grievers. But here’s the thing, if you were listening to this podcast, that is you too. That is you because you can take so much more than I think you give yourself credit for. There comes a time where you can only take so much. And I think that’s when most people seek out help and support. And I’ll come back to the first part of this episode where I talked about support and help and how important it is. But for Eric, and for many gravers, it does take having this moment within ourselves, I meant for more than this. My life is more than this, more than this sorrow, more than this anger and more than this pain.

I want my life to be fruitful and thrive. I want to thrive and I want to make something out of this crap that I’ve been handed. I do think there are many of us that come to that place too. And unfortunately, there are many who stay in that place of sorrow and pain. And feel like this is just how it is. This is just what life is going to be. This is my new normal, they say now but it doesn’t have to be. You have so much power of choice. You don’t even probably realize it because grief does make us feel like we don’t have a choice. But we do. You do, you do have a choice. And that’s what Eric talks a lot about in his episode. There was a defining moment where you felt like he heard Zoi’s voice. He did. He said he heard Zoi’s voice. And she was in so many words, I’m just paraphrasing, but just like “snap out of it, Dad, snap out of it.”. And when we are so deep in it, it’s really hard for us to do that. Sometimes it’s a prayer that you just say out loud. And something happens within you, something turns within you, something flips.

We Thrive by Supporting Each Other

And that’s really when my life kind of flipped, when I finally surrendered. And I started to pray. To be honest, I hadn’t stepped in a church and many, many years. And it happens differently for everybody. It doesn’t happen for everybody, of course, because there are many Grievers out there who are still feeling hopeless. Again, that’s the premise of this whole podcast is to bring hope to people. I think it’s fitting that he titled his book, A Sherpa named Zoi. And it’s because of what he has learned about himself through her, and through that experience. And not to mention what he also learned about Zoi herself through stories that people shared with him after her passing. So we have an impact on people and we often just never realize it. And that was one of the things Eric and I talked about. And it’s so unfortunate that we don’t feel like we can share with other people while we’re alive and well, how much that person means to us, or how much impact they have in our lives, or they have had on our lives. And just feeling this gratitude and expressing it for what they bring to our lives and what they mean to us and being grateful for the connection itself, because we are beings that thrive on connection. And again, it comes back to the support and feeling supported. And there’s so many people who I know, that walk throughout their lives and don’t feel supported. And I can offer my support in a thousand different ways. But as a person, they don’t feel it within themselves. That’s a really unfortunate space to be in. And I think a lot of it comes down to trust. We also have to trust that we are supported. It has to come within us first before we can feel it from other people. And that’s what so many things, obviously, love, connection. If we’re feeling disconnected from ourselves, which often happens in grief, how can we then feel connected with others?

Continue Living for a Reason, Find Something to Live For

Feeling really begins when we start with self exploration, when it comes to grief. And I want to share a quote that Eric had shared during the podcast episode. And he said, “just because your loved one lost their life doesn’t mean your life is lost, too.” And I thought that was such a beautiful, poignant thing. And it’s true. And that’s easy for me to say that it’s true, because I haven’t lived that experience. So don’t take it from me take it from Eric, who’s lived it. He’s lived that experience. And many guests on this podcast have lived through terrible experiences. And if they would have settled for the fact that their life was lost too, their gifts that they could have given the world wouldn’t be out there. So let that settle in a minute. And just think about what your hopes and dreams were before grief, before the loss that you’ve endured. What were they before? They’re still there, there’s still life left to live. And I hope that Eric’s story gives you hope that it’s still possible to move forward. I hope Rachel story gives you hope that it’s still possible to create a life that you love, even if it’s the love you lost, even if it’s your child, Eric has become an amazing mentor and leader in helping others really find their own strength through their struggle.

much love, victoria

P.S. I encourage you to check out Eric’s website, you can find it at erichodgdon.com. And I think just looking at his website, you’ll feel that he really made something out of this tragic, terrible loss that he’s experienced. And there are so many tips too that he walks through on our podcast episode. He talked about the pressure that teens feel today and shared tips around that, as well as being a parent of a teen. It really was a great, great conversation. So I hope you check it out. And I do hope, again, that you find hope in through their stories. Like Eric said, gratitude played a huge role in what he was experiencing when he was deep in his sorrow. And he had to constantly remind himself that gratitude of what is in my life right now. And so that is the question for you today, what is in your life right now that you can just feel so grateful for? of what is today in your life. And it was thanks to him  that he shared about the Five Minute Journal, and I’ve now been using it for three months. I love it, I absolutely love it. It’s become part of my morning regimen. And I highly recommend it. And I do link to that in the show notes of Episode 62 of his episode, and I will link to it here as well. So and as well as to the episodes, both 61 and 62. You’ll also find in the show notes, and I, again, encourage you to listen to those.

P.S. I just want to share about an energy quiz that I’ve launched a little while back. And if you haven’t gone to my website, theunleashedheart.com, you can find a link for that either on the top banner, or it should pop up at some point. And it takes less than 90 seconds, it has 10 questions and at the end you’ll discover your energy type, and what to do with it, and how to nurture your energy type, what drains it, all of that stuff. I think it’s a very informative quiz, and the results are very informative. And I think it would be beneficial and helpful especially for Grievers who often feel their energy being drained. You’ll have a PDF that you can resource that you can use to figure out what nurtures and what drains your energy, what your energy type is. And I just am really proud of what I created with that. And so I would love for you to enjoy it as well. And it’s free. You’re not going to get any further emails from me. For my newsletter or anything like that, it’s you’re just getting the guide. And if you wish to join my newsletter, which is bi-weekly, every other Wednesday, which is filled with content not shared anywhere else. There is a link in the show notes to that, if you would like to join that. I would love to have you in my sacred space I call it it’s where I share things I don’t share elsewhere. So I’d be happy to have you. Until next time, take care and remember, when you unleash your heart you unleash your life. Much love