Kristine Carlson | Heartbroken Open: A Widows’ Work of Unmasking Sorrow



When Kristine’s husband, Richard, suddenly died of a pulmonary embolism while descending on a flight, she had no idea how much she would rely on the tools and insights she had gained while writing several of the books contained in the “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff” series.

It was the teachings, many years of personal development work, writing, and support of others that gave her the means to process the grief from, what had been at that point, the most profound loss of her life.

Kristine shares what those first years looked like, as well as takes us through what life has been like beyond, and how the loss of her late husband and most recently her soul-sister friend since age 14, Melanie.

Grief brings with it gaping wounds, but if we resolve, as Kristine says, to not allow ourselves to become a victim of our circumstances, a beautiful life with joy can unfold – if we only surrender.

Learn, through this episode, ways to cope that helped Kristine get through the darkest days and lean into joy again.



Victoria Volk 0:00
Thank you for tuning in to grieving voices. I’m your host Victoria of the Unleashed heart. And today my guest is Kristine Carlson. She is the co author with her late husband, Dr. Richard Carlson of The New York Times best selling, don’t sweat the small stuff books, she is featured this fall as the subject of a biopic Lifetime movie based on her book, heartbroken, open a true story of coming alive again, after profound loss. Thank you so much for being here.

Kristine Carlson 0:31
Hi, Victoria. It’s so good to be here with you. You have such a calming voice.

Victoria Volk 0:36
People say that. That’s good.

Kristine Carlson 0:38
Yeah that’s really good.

Victoria Volk 0:39
So I mean, I could start in a lot of places, but I really want to start with why you wanted to come on the podcast today and share your story. And really, it’s your grieving voice. Because all the work that you’re doing right now is as a result of a devastating loss. Right?

Kristine Carlson 1:01
Yeah, absolutely. I, you know, just want to be clear that I’m a long ways out, then most people from my loss, well, at least the the profound loss that I write about, and I speak about in heartbroken open. I’ve just recently gone through a very another profound loss with which is one of my soulmate, Sister friends that I grew up with, just passed from cancer about three weeks ago. So I’m reminded again, just about this grieving process, in such a, you know, raw sort of way, my loss happened 15 years ago, from the love of my life, he was only 45. And I was 43. And he was traveling to New York, buy a plane, and on the descent of the flight, have a pulmonary embolism, which took his life instantly. And, you know, it wasn’t something that we expected at all, Richard was an incredibly vibrant man doing his work in the world. And my kids were 14 and 17 at the time. So, you know, we were just really in what you would think of as the peak of our lives, not the end of life. And so it was southern loss, you know, very sudden catapulted us, of course, into deep grief and, and then you know, just how to traverse that territory at that age, without a lot of widows around or knowing you know, how to go through that process. From me about all four of our parents were still alive. You know, I just, I just didn’t really have any experience. But what I found really interesting about how I decided to do it, in a lot of ways I was very prepared in the sense of I have a lot of tools, like I had a lot of emotional tools from studying with Richard, the form of psychology that he wrote about in the don’t sweat, the small stuff, book series, living a very, very healthy and happy life, but not living a life that really knew how to encompass grief. So I began to just really put all those tools to work. And also I was really supported, had a lot of great friends. And I had a great community of of healers around me too. And one of the reasons why I write about loss and I have really used my story to help others is because I remember feeling so blessed that I had the support that I had and the encouragement and the community around me to help me and people like John Walsh Owens who wrote awakening from grief, or Richard’s best friends, I had great friends that knew a lot about how to grieve so they they really helped me and I thought, I don’t know how a normal average person goes through such a devastating loss without their heart just completely shutting down and stopping from heartbreak. And so I felt very compelled. As I witnessed myself go through this process of healing to journal which I find for every person is incredibly healing to journal, I started to realize I needed to empty out grief, that it was not too unlike what natural childbirth felt like to me, where those contractions of pain came in waves. But grief lasted a lot longer than, you know, six to 10 hours.

Kristine Carlson 4:49 Grief is a longer process, but very similar, very painful, but also there’s reprieves and, and there’s an opening that happens and I became very clear To me, that as I was going through this process, what I was really processing was that I was birthing a new life. And I think that’s the hardest thing, that people who lose their spouse or lose a child, which are the two most profound losses that we go through is that we realize we have to let go of the life that we have planned and let go of the life that we had, in order to step into the life that’s ahead of us and step into our future from the present moment. And that is the most difficult part is to, is to do that a lot of people understandably get stuck. Because they don’t want to do that they cannot reconcile this loss of a dream that they had for their lives, they cannot reconcile that they cannot go back. And that’s the hardest, I think that’s the hardest thing to do is in grief is allow grief to help you heal. And recognize that.

Victoria Volk 6:10
Yeah, I like to think of it as you become a version 2.0 You become a different version of yourself, and you really have a lot of choice and what that can look like. But when you’ve had a profound loss like that, which can be from a less than loving relationship to it’s the the secondary losses that often happen that kind of even impacted even more, you can lose friendships, and did you experience or can you reflect on any secondary losses that you experienced or, and then also being a parent and trying to navigate, help them navigate, especially the teen years? Helping them to try and navigate that loss for them as well, while still maintaining your own? Truth about how you are feeling? Can you speak to? There’s like three questions in there. I’m sorry.

Kristine Carlson 7:06
Yeah no no no, yeah. What What’s interesting is that, I felt like as a family, we did a dance with our grief. As a mother, I think my kids were what got me up every day, I was mostly concerned with them, that, you know, we got we were going through just incredibly painful time ourselves, but then to know our kids are longing and missing for the life they had with their father and the dreading the future moments that they won’t have him there in, in form with them. You know, not having the spiritual understanding that maybe I had to because I’ve always had this deep spiritual knowing that we don’t really die a That’s my belief is we don’t really die. And so I while I was super attached, and I wanted my husband in my bed and warming me up and the early morning hours and laughing with me and drinking coffee with me and going on hikes with me and doing all the things we did. I still knew that he was with me and my kids, though, you know, they, they felt certain times that he was with them, but they didn’t have that spiritual depth that I’d spent a lifetime building. And they were still building on that. And so I felt like sometimes I probably looked a little stoic for them. But I but I would grieve when they went to school because I didn’t want you know, for one thing, like as an adult, we have so much more control over our lives. When we have children. They’re going through very deep grief, but they they have this need for normalcy. And also they have this, they have to go back to school or they don’t have to I gave my kids the option. Right away, I immediately started to look into how I could lighten their load and give them space to grieve. I didn’t expect them to do anything that didn’t resonate with them. But my kids wanted normalcy. My daughter kind of wanted to keep playing soccer. My daughter jazz wanted to go back to school so I just did what I could to lighten their load. And then when they went to school, I fell apart and I allowed myself to fall apart. I allowed myself to go through you know deep moments of grief that was building in my body if I didn’t I could feel these feelings build in my body just this morning. You know, I woke up with a horrible stomach ache because I realized I’m having a difficult time processing. My friend Melanie, her her physical death because she doesn’t live near me and you know, we talked every couple of weeks and you know we’re close since the time are 14 years old, but I’m still having a difficult time processing it. And so I think, you know, the body has this innate intelligence. And the body will tell you, when you’re not grieving enough by how it feels, and all you have to do is tune in and say, Okay, how is my body feeling what’s going on in my body. And when I get a stomach ache, for example, I know, I’m not crying enough, I know, I’m not allowing myself to sit and really empty out tears, and be in that space. And so with kids, you know, I think it really was a dance as a family to figure out how to support them, and how to also take care of myself, because I realize now I’m the only parent, and there’s only one life vest in the sea for all three of us, and it’s me. So that’s, that’s the way I looked at it, the secondary losses, you know, I wasn’t as tuned into those I was, but I know they exist. For a lot of a lot of widows, I probably chose my friends more carefully after loss, it was interesting to the women that I spent the most time with were neat neonatal nurses in their early careers. And what that meant is they would spend a lot of time in the ICU holding babies that would potentially die. And so I found that very interesting that my friends that I felt most comfortable with, where those that could really hold me rather than trying to fix me, the ones that I felt least comfortable with, were the ones that were very uncomfortable with grief, you know, that they might come into my house and, and not be judgmental, but sort of like why why is, you know, why is kind of in her bedroom? Why don’t you get her up, you know, get her out of bed, like she needs to get out of out of bed, you know, and I’d be like, no, she needs to be where she feels safe and held and where she can comfort herself, if that’s what she wants, you know, so I was very acutely aware that as individuals, but my daughters and I, that we were there to support each other, but also to allow, you know, allow ourselves to go through our loss in our own way, because we’re very, all very unique that way. And, and so that there were times where I wouldn’t say I had a loss of a friendship because I didn’t, I really made it a point not to make definitive decisions during that first year. I just was going through

Kristine Carlson 12:45 intuitively, my process of what I felt I needed every moment. And, and again, I liken it to childbirth, especially national natural childbirth, because you’ve never, you see women in natural childbirth, and they know exactly what they need, like, there’s no doubt in their minds what they need the next. And it’s like that when you’re dealing with a loss and you’re in grief is if you’re tuned in, and you’re very present to what you need, you know what you need and, and I would just constantly do that for myself and give myself that gift, even if I had a dental appointment. And, and I you know, I remember one time I just called it i There’s just no way I could sit in the dental chair that day, I was in grief. And I just call this I’m very sorry, I cannot make it today I’m in grief. And, and I would just say that and, and it felt so good to take care of myself in those moments, where I would just know that this is what I needed to do with stay home,

Victoria Volk 13:49
You make a very clear distinction there in in what you prioritized was your what you needed. giving, giving yourself permission to do that. And I think so often in when we want to people, please we dishonor our own needs to please others. And so I’m curious how that sense of knowing or, you know, because so many, I think I mean, I can speak to me personally, it took me a very long time to really understand intuition and tap into my own intuition. Was that something that’s always been something you embraced? Or was that something that you grew into over time? Or?

Kristine Carlson 14:33
Well, I think you know, having been a writer and having been a leader in the personal growth world helped a lot because of course I’d evaluated what intuition was. And I mean, Richard and I started meditating when we were very young. I was 20 years old when I started meditating. So meditation is such an incredible tool for grounding for centering for knowing yourself for being able to witness and be mindful of so many things. And so when I, when I, when I say really did have tools, I really did have tools. I, you know, the other thing is, you know, I’m very attuned to fear to and what fear means. And so for me, I immediately noticed that without Richard present, I was afraid and because, you know, there’s this sense of protection that comes from your husband, and from having a man in the home. And, and I thought that was really wow, I’m like, I haven’t felt fear in like, 25 years. And now I feel fear. So it’s very tuned into that. What, what that felt like, and also, I would go to what I know about fear, and I would say, well, if it’s emotional fear, then, you know, I needed to breathe into it. And I just needed to allow it to, you know, dissipate in the moment, like, go to the present moment, breathe into it. And then also, fears of my future I would lean into, I would say, the fear of the future is something that indicates where you need to go, not where you need to back away from, which is also very unusual. So I remember, for example, Richards, Assistant, early assistant, was best assistant, Nicole had asked me, if I would marry she and her husband, and it was four months after Richard died. And I, because she would have asked Richard to marry them. And she said, then it suddenly occurred to me, I should ask you, Chris, and I mean, I really didn’t want to I mean, I can you imagine I was like, Oh, my God, how could I do that? It’s, I’m in such raw grief. I and I thought that’s just the worst thing in the whole world I could think of is setting a new couple out on their marriage, while mine is just ended, through loss, you know, and, but but because of that, I felt this push in a way to lean into that and say, Yes, because I knew that my ego, which was very low, was was telling me no, don’t go toward that. That’s scary. That’s, you know, putting yourself out there, you know, in a way that’s very vulnerable. And, but that there was something inside me that’s that pushed forward and said, Yes, I’ll do that. And so I did that. And I looked at it, like everything I did like that, because we had, of course, that first year is really, I mean, it’s brutal with all those firsts that you have. And then, you know, topple that with, I had jazz graduating from high school. I had, you know, can I was a freshman. I mean, so there was all the graduation there was like, you know, prom for jazz, there was, you know, all these things. Rich’s birthday, it all kind of came back to back and then that wedding came to and I just kind of have this time period where it was just I was being pounded in a way but I looked at that, like, I looked at that, like every trigger that happened, allowed me to empty more and more and more and, and then I just knew intuitively that as my grief emptied, I was opening myself up for something more joyful, and bigger. Of course, I didn’t know it in that moment, I was still very, very sad and very full of sorrow. But I kept going to that quote from Cahill Gebran, in the profit that says, Your greatest joy is your sorrow unmasked. And so I thought to myself, Wow, well, if that’s true, I’m gonna have a lot of joy. Love, joy is coming my way, because I have a great sorrow happening right now.

Kristine Carlson 19:05 I think that’s what it feels like you’re going through the dark night of the soul. And we and it’s a journey through and it feels really icky and feels like it’s never going to end. And then I tell people like something somebody told me, who was ahead of me by four years, she said, You know what, one day you’re gonna wake up and you’re just gonna feel different. And sure enough, one day about, you know, two years, two and a half, three years in, I woke up on Richard’s side of the bed. I come in and I’ve never slept on his side of the bed. And I don’t even remember getting my clothes off and getting into bed on his side, but I had when I woke up in the morning, I felt different. I wasn’t completely out of grief because I was still, you know, I would still cry still feel sad when big momentous occasions came like grandchildren that were born. and weddings that happen. Those kinds of things. I mean, Richard’s birthday, the anniversary time, there were times where I still was in grief. But it wasn’t the same. It wasn’t the dark night of the soul grief, it was manageable grief, it was, it was these times that would be triggers that I would just feel sad. And then I would be, I’d pop back out again, pretty quickly. So. And I think that’s the other thing, if we just don’t resist our feelings so much, you know, if we don’t resist those moments, as painful as they can be that they will pass and they will turn into something else, because that’s what our emotions do. We, our emotions are like the weather, it’s like, they go up and down and up and down. And I think the fear for everyone a great fear is that if they allow themselves, their emotion, if they allow themselves, their sadness, they’ll be like, sucked down underneath a whirlpool of sadness, and they’ll never come out. Whereas it’s really not like that, yeah, you’re sucked down for a moment that you come up just in time to get the next breath. And you always will. Because that’s what we do as human beings, we survive. And that’s what we do. And we are very, very knowledgeable about how to survive. You look at infants, they know how to survive. And as adults, we get in our own way, so much of the time, because of what we think we should do, or how we think we should do it, or what people tell us how to do it, you know, whereas if we just check in with ourselves and say, What do I need today? What is it that my body needs? What is it my spirit needs, what do I need today, and that is at the very core of mindfulness is to really acknowledge and with intent, acknowledge what it is you’re feeling on the inside. And then allow yourself to be in the present moment with that. That’s a very different kind of experience than what we’re taught about how to go through grief or how to busy ourselves, or let’s just get busy. So you don’t think about it. But that’s just not that’s not a possibility when you’re missing, and longing for somebody in your household.

Victoria Volk 22:18
That is one of the myths of grief is keep busy. Sure. Every recovery. Yeah, I have a few things I want to like, just reflect back because one, I just want to share again, reiterate that, did you intentionally give yourself a year to make no big decisions was that like something you consciously like a conscious decision, or that’s just how things unfolded?

Kristine Carlson 22:42
I did. I just sort of knew based on just talking to people like and feeling like I knew that the first year was going to be so raw, and that my mind, you know, I mean, you’ve got a lot of fog, like brain fog, and you’re just, you know, I just, you’re just not yourself in any capacity that first year or so I just didn’t think like, it was the time to make any decisions that didn’t need to be made. Now that said, I mean, there’s still decisions you have to make on daily basis, especially when you have children. And, and I of course, did those. So, you know, I did what I had to do, but not more than I had to do. And, you know, it’s just really trying to survive like anyone else. It’s, it’s really is just survival every time I would go in and change something or go in and write down on a social security document surviving spouse in my head, I’d be like, Jesus, you’re not kidding. surviving spouse. That’s that. And I never had thought about it like that. I just wouldn’t have known to think about it like that. But yeah, you know, you it’s just such a huge, you’re surviving for a while. And so you have to give yourself that space, just survive, and and to do to take care of yourself in a way, whatever way that is, without rules without shoulds and, and have tos and just be in a space of what do I need today? What do I need to survive this? How do I get through this day

Victoria Volk 24:10
So that eventually you can write thriving?

Kristine Carlson 24:14
Right, exactly.

Victoria Volk 24:16
So you mentioned how we’re not really taught how to grieve as kids and I would wholeheartedly agree unless it’s been emulated in a healthy way from our parents, right? Because those beliefs and those things are passed down to us. Can you touch on that a little bit? How grief was emulated for you growing up?

Kristine Carlson 24:34
Well, I I didn’t really have em grief emulated for me growing up because I mean, my parents had normal losses, you know, they had like their parents passed away when I was, you know, growing up and so forth. And, of course, they cried and, and they were sad and but I can’t say that’s really where I learned how to grieve. I mean, I come from a very, kind of a very stoic quick background actually, Swedish background you know, Swedes are very known for stiff upper lip. And German. Yeah. And also the German I have German me as well. So very German matriarch mother, and, you know, so I’m not sure that emotions were really like, well emulated for me, but again, I’ll I’ll say that my work with people like rich and avant Dutra St. John of challenge day, I was sat on their board for several years, and I went to all their workshops, you know, I did shadow process with Debbie Ford, I spent most of my adult life either writing about or doing personal growth workshops myself. So I mean, I knew how to sit on the ground and scream, you know, but this time, I really had something to cry about. So I remember, you know, I didn’t know how to cry when before I was in grief, I used to think in my head, wow, if I can’t be happy, nobody can because I had everything. And then after Richard died, I was like, Well, I know how to cry. I really, really know how to cry. Now. I think that’s a beautiful thing is to learn how to be in the emotions that you’re in without resistance, I do believe we have a choice and how we journey through our losses. And I certainly knew that I did not want to be a victim of my circumstances. I knew that wasn’t the way that said, did I feel some self pity? Of course, I felt self pity. Sometimes I missed my husband, I would say why did this happen to us all the questions that everyone asks, Why me? Why him? Why now? And then there are certain answers that will never come. And you have to just accept that those are the questions that you may always have, and they will not have complete answers to them. Because the life that we have is very mysterious. And that’s the mystery is, we don’t know when we’re gonna die, you know, we don’t know when our last moment will be. What I love so much about the way Richard lived was that he lived as if he could die at any moment. And he actually like left this column around our house, which is if tomorrow never comes, I published it in a little book called an hour to live in our to love. But he left this poem around the house. And, and it was really essentially, it’s it was it was in honor of 911 for those people that went out the door and went to work that day, and then never returned, you know, and that that could happen to any of us at any time. So, you know, I? Well, Richard wasn’t ill, I think he had a sense that his clock was shortening, that his time here on Earth was not going to be long, long time. Maybe he was being called to greater service from the other side. I don’t I don’t know, I sense that I sense that he’s not been in a rest in peace mission. I sense that he was called back home. And early, you know, early, you know, I think about like that there’s always a message in the mess, you know, that, you know, I would not necessarily have discovered my own message in the mass, nor that I was a leader in the personal transformational field, if my husband was alive. And that’s not to say that I wouldn’t have but I’m, I’m it was like a very direct conduit for me, because I am a writer to have this gift from him of expression, and to have this gift of understanding and compassion for other people and deep empathy for people who are going through loss. And I’m just one that I don’t know that I would have that sense of deep compassion. Of course, I felt compassion for people going through loss, but not to the point at which I know how devastating it is, you know, until you go through it yourself, I don’t think you really can know how truly devastating that kind of loss is,

Victoria Volk 29:13
Well we can’t know how it is for anyone really, regardless of the loss because every relationship is unique. Even people in the same household, you know, their, their relationship is unique to them, even with your daughters. Each one of them had a different relationship with their father. And that’s why we all grieve differently, because our relationships are different. So our process reflects that oftentimes, we can have one child that might be very angry and resentful, and all these things because maybe there was conflict in the relationship and maybe the other one was felt really loved and held and supported. And you know, I’m curious, have you felt signs or things that throughout the years that you know that he that You feel his presence?

Kristine Carlson 30:01
Oh, yeah, I mean, I have to say more. So in the very beginning and the first couple of years, I just felt like he was all around us. I mean, we had some pretty wild science actually, like he was, I was like, well, he really knows how to do a lot of light, a lot of light, leaving balls of light flashing around the house, like just a lot of lights flashing, even today, like all I know, is always around when the lights are flickering and flashing. And then as I have to send sometimes just walking across the street, that he’s with me, like, almost like he’s holding me as I walk across the street. Yeah, yeah. And I, you know, I, I’m one that has a lot of conversations with him daily. So I, I think that we can keep our love alive, and also keep that relationship alive the same way we would in life. But we have to be the ones to open the door and ask and to, and to just keep talking, you know, either via our thinking, or via our words to our loved one, and, and just saying, Good morning, and I love you and, and, you know, thank you for being present. And all of those things, you know that I’ve always said that we don’t move on. From those we love, we just move forward carrying them with us. And we don’t have to move on. And that’s one of the great other great myths of griefs, you tell people, they have to move on. And that’s like, you’re going to hit a wall, nobody wants to move on. Like, they don’t want to do that. So instead, just think of it like, you’re living for both of you, now you’re moving forward carrying that person with you. And that when you speak of them, you look at a sunset and you think of them, they’re with you and they’re feeling the same thing. They’re seeing the sunset with you, through your eyes, through your feelings through you’re bringing them into the present moment with you.

Victoria Volk 31:58
I’m a grief recovery specialist, but in Grief Recovery, it’s about moving on from the pain. Yeah, you know, like you’ve expressed it’s, it’s not like after two and a half years or so it was for you that you know that pain or those feelings you felt weren’t debilitating, like they were, you know, wouldn’t take you down for days or hours or, you know, like they used to or maybe even weeks.

Kristine Carlson 32:22
Yeah, maybe that’s what I’m experiencing now with Melanie’s I’m having a hard time going back to the pain. You know, like, because I moved, you know, I think that we do that we we want to be out of pain. And and then I think it’s, it’s, it’s hard to go back into that again.

Victoria Volk 32:42
So curious also to have you found love again. Do you want to find love again? If you haven’t,

Kristine Carlson 32:49
I found love again, for sure. Not in the same sense of the love of partnership that I had with my husband? Yeah, I think we’re like, you know, we’re creatures that are meant to explore love and explore relationship. And I’ve had many relationships since my husband say last about two to four, one last one lasted a long time as a different kind of relationship. Fact, I’m still in relationship with him. It’s just not a physical relationship. It’s a we’re very spiritually soul connected. But I dated him for many, many, many years. And then he was my transitional person. He was the person that helped me and the worst part of my grief. And yeah, but I you know, it’s weird because I have always had this sense that Richard was my person, like, my person to partner with. And in many ways, I’m still partnering with him today. So I look at it more like what is it that I need as a woman? And what are my emotional needs and then I if I need a man that I feel is a good man when that I’m attracted to one that I feel I can have a connection with and I’m willing to explore that I’m very open to exploring that but then a lot of times it just doesn’t something peters out or you know, I have a very fulfilling fulfilled life and very full life with my career with my five grandkids now I’ve got a couple houses that I maintain and visit and and I’ve got aging parents so I’m in that sandwich generation where I needed by my daughters and I needed by my parents so and then I have a lot of friends I have a lot of single women friends that I hang out with I lead retreats for women all over the world. I have, you know, I’m I’m with people a lot so my needs are lower, and if it doesn’t, it’s I start to realize that if I’m not really nourished in the relationship, or it’s just sort of like companionship, I Do you have to think well, would I rather be with my girlfriend on a Friday night? Or do I want to be with him? And then if it’s the girlfriend wins, I know I’m in the wrong relationship.

Victoria Volk 35:09
Hey, there you go, that’s a great tip.

Kristine Carlson 35:12
I’m like, okay, if I’m not missing him, he’s a great guy. He’s just not mine guy. You know? And, and so the answer to that is very loaded. It’s, I’m very open to meeting men and to exploring was a really, really high quality good man. And I’m very specific about that, what I how I define that for myself. And a lot of it is just, I’m looking for a man that has a wide range of emotion, who has a depth to him who’s passionate about his work, who has, you know, created a good, solid, complete life for himself. And that’s what I have. So I’m looking for somebody like that, you know, and I meet men like that, but then there might be a couple things that are off, you know, so over a period of two years, usually takes about two years. And I’m like, Okay, this is run its course. You know, what it’s done about life? You know, it’s kind of it’s really not about life. It’s, it’s, it’s a little bit hard on the heart, because you have to kind of, you know, I don’t like to hurt people, and I hate breakups. I hate going through. I’m terrible at breakups. I’m awful at them. And so I kind of always just hope, oh, hope this just fizzles out, you know. So there’s so that we can be friends without it, you know. So when it becomes very obvious to both people, then you usually can part with friendship, and, and it’s like, I really love you. I think you’re amazing. And we’re not moving forward. So let’s, you know, let’s put the brakes on where we’re at. And let’s regroup. You know, and that’s usually what happens for me, as I do that, with most of the men that I’ve dated, kind of on the more serious side,

Victoria Volk 36:57
Is this something that you address and kind of help women navigate with at your retreats and things like that?

Kristine Carlson 37:02
It is yeah, we do. We talk a lot about what it means to be single Love, the stories come out, it’s a lot more fun than my work. Like, I don’t go into that so much of my work. But yeah, just being single is it’s a great topic for women on retreat, especially women that most of the women that come on my retreats are either in a long marriage, and they’re just yearning for, you know, female company, or they’re single, widowed, divorced, you know, and in that place of wondering, like, how do I navigate this? And, yeah, I would love to write a book about that at some point, just because it is, it is such a, it’s murky water for most people. And, and it doesn’t have to be, you know, you can put some clear boundaries on how you do it as an adult woman, you know, and how, and move through it pretty, you know, it doesn’t have to be so difficult.

Victoria Volk 38:02
I know, society has a lot of opinions about women and remarriage and, and all of that, and, you know, too soon and not too soon, and why are you waiting, and you know, all these things on and out

Kristine Carlson 38:18
Really honest, they they take a lover pretty early, because it’s an alive experience, and they’re looking to live. So I especially, you know, kind of depends on I think when you’re widowed to like, if you’re younger or older, you know what I mean? Like, because if you’re younger, your hormones are raging, and then a lot of times grief and post traumatic stress can make your hormones rage even more. So you have to take that into consideration. You know, I mean, it’s, it’s so when you’re in your, you know, like where I’m at now I’m in my late 50s I don’t you know, I’m like sex. I’m like, I like it, it’s great, but I don’t have to have it like I did when I was in my early 40s. I mean, that was a horrible time for my husband to die. I was basically in the peak of my sexual hurrah, you know, and I’m like, I need to have sex. So the, but the other part about that is just learning as a woman how to be comfortable with your own body, you know, and, and taking care of yourself that way. And, you know, again, like, there are these society rules and expectations, but I think I think that people know, that we have needs, you know, I definitely felt my husband pushing on me to have a lover if that’s what I needed, because I needed to live and, and again, I’ll just reiterate, sex is a very alive, very engaging part of life and so it’s okay. If you’re a widow to find a safe, a safe companion lover if that’s what you need, you know, it’s okay. Hey, now that said, I mean you’re very raw and open, and you have to be careful because, you know, you don’t want to just, you don’t want to just fill that hole with something just to fill it. I mean, I would I mean, whole i That sounded really terrible. I mean, that way I read the whole of loss. So oh my god that’s really love this conversation. Whoa, sorry about that did not mean it like that. But anyways, you just don’t want to bring place the loss, yeah, replace a loss or try to replace that because that again is not going to allow for your grieving process to really happen. But Can somebody hold you in grief? Yes, absolutely. And then maybe you just don’t put expectation on that being the relationship that is gonna replace the one that you lost, you just you allow that to be the kind of relationship that it is, I think that’s the hard part for women is that we get very attached, and especially to those relationships where it has a sexual connection, we can’t help ourselves, it’s just what we do, because it’s a different experience having sex for a man and a woman. You know, he enters you and penetrates you, and then he leaves and you know, and he’s entered you and penetrated to so there’s a totally different experience for a woman that way. And that’s why the attachment is so much greater. So we have to be careful with our emotions and our feelings. And probably for a lot of women, the first year is probably not a good time to take on a lover for that reason, because you are so raw and open and vulnerable.

Victoria Volk 41:43
I’m glad you circled back to that, because I was actually going to say that I think there’s a lot that you could unpack there in your work with women because you didn’t have the tools like you did. And you weren’t as tapped into your own intuition and your own knowing and really did feel like I don’t know what I need. Because I didn’t, maybe perhaps they got into that relationship of the person they lost. Maybe they got into that relationship. And maybe that person was someone who was filling something up for them that they did not fill within themselves. Oh, yeah. So that piece is gone. And now they don’t even know who they are.

Kristine Carlson 42:20
Well, that is so true. And I don’t think we do know who we are after the loss of a long term. Partner. I mean, I knew I didn’t I was I kind of got dropped back to being that 19 year old girl that I was when I met him. And so a lot of the fears, the insecurities I felt, were masked. And I think that happens in our relationship, it masks a lot of the things that we may have thought up until that time. Now that said, you kind of go through an accelerated growth process pretty quick if you’re if you’re open to it. And you know that and you start to realize, Oh, these are old fears, these are these are old fears resurfacing, because he’s not here, he’s not masking them anymore. There’s like not there’s it was like the paper was just over it. And now the papers ripped off. And now those those qualities and attributes are present again. But I think if you realize that, then you can you can address them, acknowledge them. And, and look at that, for what it is. It’s just, it’s just fear, you know, it’s just emotional fear. I have a program called what now and I, I love this program, because I actually designed it for women and for women who are really trying to retrieve themselves because they don’t We don’t know who we are, after we go through any kind of loss of our identity. And let’s face it, I mean, loss of a spouse is loss of an identity, because you are no longer that married woman, and you’re no longer partnered. And that’s a huge identity crisis that women go through, of course, so they can happen the same. through divorce, it can happen. When women go through the empty nest, some women go through incredible loss when their kids are finally out of the house because they don’t know who they are anymore because they were a mom, and they were so identified with that. So so there is this whole process that you need to redefine what it is you value at this point in your life, you know, what is it that you value is a huge question. And then how can you align your actions with what it is you value because that’s what integrity is. That’s what self integrity is, is aligning our actions with what matters in our heart. And that just takes an inquiry, you know, that takes the sole work of really going inside and asking those questions of yourself because we do all have the answers. We all have the answers whether or not we’re honest with ourselves or not. That’s that’s another thing and that’s on each of us to be honest and in integrity with ourselves. And so, you know, my webinar program talks a lot about all of these things, intention, integrity, what we value, how to get back to what we value, how to align our actions with our values, and it’s so important for the whole journey of life, you know, if you want to get back to living a vibrant life, you’ve got to begin to see yourself in life and begin to visualize a new dream for your life. And that’s hard. It took me years to do that I could not ever dream of what my life would be like, without my husband in it. And then suddenly I started to, I was able to start to see things and create goals for myself and, and look at the things I wanted to do. And you know, and I filled my life up with meaningful things, you know, because I did value spending time with women I value travel as value helping others and serving others. So I write books, I do all these different things that honor my purpose here.

Victoria Volk 46:01
That’s huge. When we honor our own values. Yeah, there it is. So let’s talk about your work. The retreats, the book, the movie, lifetime movie that came out.

Kristine Carlson 46:12
Yeah, thank you. Um, well, my book heartbroken, open. A true story of coming alive again, after profound loss was actually my book, heartbroken open a memoir, through loss to self discovery that I wrote two years after my husband died. And it really came right out of my journal from those first two years. So I got the rights back a couple years after I published it, because they asked me to write a how to grieve book and I was like, well, this isn’t that this is a memoir. So I wasn’t ready to write a how to grieve book, my how to grieve book is called from heartbreak to wholeness, the hero’s journey to joy. And it has a lot of the things that we talked about just a moment ago about really going into the sole inquiry of who you are now, after this profound change that you’ve gone through whether it be a health crisis or a huge loss. And so those two books are my, my contribution, you know, to the grieving and the wholeness, you know, how to how to heal from grief. And then I have programs to 21 days of healing or grieving with grace with Christine Carlson. That’s a program I just designed so that you could get a video of me in your inbox every day talking about how to inspire yourself today and how to heal and grieve with grace that and then there’s a journal that goes with that. And that’s only $21 $1 a day for 21 days. So that’s on my website at Christine And then I have retreats, I have the wet now program on retreat, which is really my my favorite of all my work that I do. It’s, it’s what I call my great work, because I feel that’s where I make the most difference in women’s lives is really helping them in that rediscovery process, and how to inspire them to dream a new dream for their lives. And then the retreats are just a blast. I mean, they really are just a huge celebration of life. I mean, I do my retreat, my webinar retreat is at Sea Ranch, California. And I do an Italy retreat, and I do I’ve done Bali, and I probably do Morocco, but you know, I’m really like, love to travel and create amazing experiences for women to travel together and have a bit of a transformational personal growth process in that that deep connection, like very deep connection with women and circle together. So yeah, that’s my work.

Victoria Volk 48:48
Can I ask what your promises like when people come to your retreat, how they come and how they leave? What are some things that people have said,

Kristine Carlson 48:56
Yeah I mean, my promise is that I’m going to be present for them and I’m going to facilitate an amazing container for them to experience pretty much all of it you know, deep connection, joy, whatever emotions come up on that retreat, but they’re with a like minded group of women. I interview every woman that comes on a retreat. So I you know, I’ve definitely turned some women and said to them that I don’t think this is the right retreat for you when I feel like it’s just not the right fit. And my retreats are small, they’re intimate, they’re going to have a great time. I mean, honestly, like I travel in a lot of styles, so I only go to really cool places and really beautiful places. And so that’s my promise for my retreats. And then it was it was really exciting year because lifetime did come out with a movie based on heartbroken open and it’s the don’t sweat the small stuff story because again, like I really wrote books in that brand as well. I’ve don’t sweat the small stuff for women. Don’t sweat the small stuff in love. And don’t sweat the small stuff for mom. So I, I wrote three books in that series. And there’s nine books in the series. And it’s just it was beautiful. It was interesting. It’s, it happened at the 14th year of grief, that’s kind of a pivotal time for a lot of widows. I didn’t intend it for it to happen, then it just did. And I think that the story is really beautifully done so that it’s inspirational. It’s, it’s a sad story, but it’s inspirational for people and meant to be that during these times where we’ve gone through so much loss due to COVID. And due to the state of the world, really, I mean, I mean, the world is is a lot of turmoil right now. So I think stories like this are very powerful and and we have such an amazing love story where that is very present in that movie.

Victoria Volk 50:49
Can I ask what you why you think the 14 years? Is it just like the seven year cycle idea?

Kristine Carlson 50:55
Yeah, I just heard research, modern widows Club does a lot of research on widows. And they they say that there’s something something that happens for widow, she she enters into a different phase of her journey after 14 years, feels more complete. And I started to feel very completed 10. But now I’m in past that four years. So I’m really I’m living in a lot more service. Now. My work is getting more and more about serving others. And in that sense of in a in a bigger way. You know, I think that’s why the movie happened is I was ready for it. I was maybe my kids weren’t but they were like kind of like, wow, really okay. But they were very supportive. But it was it was a little hard, harder for them than I thought it would be. They’re grown women now. They’re, they’re 30 and 32. But it still was a difficult time in our lives for them to revisit that the movie is beautiful. And they acknowledge that it’s a beautiful movie. And they were both portrayed very beautifully. So they you know, it wasn’t as messy in the movie as it actually it was in life. Somebody asked me, they said, Well, was it hard to watch and go? No, it was really hard to live through. It wasn’t as hard to watch.

Victoria Volk 52:09
Yeah, that’s, that would be a good point to make.

Kristine Carlson 52:13
Really hard to live for, though.

Victoria Volk 52:16
Well, thank you so much for sharing all that you’ve shared today. I do want to be mindful of your time. But is there anything you would like to leave the listeners with today, a tip or piece of advice, or what grief has taught you maybe kind of a little bit of all of that. I mean, you’ve shared a lot of great advice and tips. But

Kristine Carlson 52:32
I would just say that when you’re in grief, I know it’s so hard, and it’s so painful. But I also remind you that you’re in very fertile ground, for the ground for your growth, and who you become and how you become after your loss. And just to be aware that this is a time where everything is going to be in a heightened awareness if you’re open, and you have the opportunity in grief to become a better person than you were before grief. And I always say like when we’re in grief and loss, and we’re living the big stuff, we’re definitely not sweating, the small stuff. You know, small stuff isn’t even on our radar, and you have an opportunity to really know yourself, to really know yourself that one of the things my husband said a lot was that the circumstances of life, don’t make or break you, but they will reveal you. And so how you are in this process is being revealed to you is who you really are. And that’s a person that’s growing. And so be compassionate, be gentle. Be kind to yourself during this process. It’s a hard process, but you will if you take your steps forward, every day, you will heal, and you will move into a feeling of wholeness and joy again, I promise you that. But you do have to allow yourself to heal. That’s the main, the main thing.

Victoria Volk 54:07
And you believe that is possible healing is possible.

Kristine Carlson 54:10
Absolutely. I believe that it absolutely we are geared toward healing that we can get in our own way. But if we surrender to the process, we’re going to receive all that we need and we’re going to receive it with grace. But the surrender piece is huge. You have to surrender to the process.

Victoria Volk 54:29
So it gives you the most hope for the future. Your future.

Kristine Carlson 54:33
I think just when I wake up and I’m just feeling so full of joy, for the most part, except for like this morning when I woke up was that was super joyful, but I feel joy now so you know, I just do my best to stay grounded and peaceful and in my own lane and help others and I think what what I love so much about life is that there’s A sense of community that you can draw on for support and that you can offer yourself to. And. And yeah, I think that’s what gives me hope is that there’s a lot of really good people in this world. And it doesn’t really matter. Like, if you’re Democrat or Republican, you know, you’re a good person, if you’re a good person, you’re entitled to your belief, whatever they are. And I think that people, we need to hold on to, you know, the values that make us good people. And that’s kindness, that’s compassion. It’s doing random acts of kindness every day for somebody else without receiving anything. It’s that kind of stuff. And I think there’s a lot of people like that still left in the world. And I and I hope to inspire more people to be like that.

Victoria Volk 55:46
I do want to give you an opportunity, if you do have a little bit of time, like, yeah, so you shared a lot about Richard and, and really just the essence of who he was. And I want to give you an opportunity to to share the essence of your friend, and what maybe she has taught you.

Kristine Carlson 56:01
Oh, well, it’s gonna make me cry. Oh, my God. No, me was an is the sweetest human, just a wonderful, wonderful woman, you know, add courage and grace and beauty and kindness. And she was really, somebody I always admired and looked up to, she was just a year, year and a half, two years older than me, but I always looked up to her. And what I’m gonna miss so much about her is that just having her in my corner here, knowing that she was, you know, like a godmother to my children and in my corner, and somebody that I would also grow old with beautiful, beautiful soul. And I know she’s, well I know, she’s at peace. I feel it. But I’m just gonna miss growing old with her and laughing with her. We were very much alike in a lot of ways. We both would laugh when we get together because we like looking at each other and, and even our laugh was very similar. And we just, we just, we would just melt into each other. And I’m going to miss that beautiful reflection that that she was of a real soul sister.

Victoria Volk 57:16
Thank you for sharing it.

Kristine Carlson 57:19
That’s great. You helped me access my pain. Thank you very. Thank you for that. No, I’m glad I needed to. I needed to go there. So it’s good. Maybe it can stay there a little while longer today.

Victoria Volk 57:31
You’re welcome. I have some soul sister friends and I, you never imagined that you would grow old with them. So my heart goes out to you.

Kristine Carlson 57:40
Thank you. She’s with Richard. I’m a little jealous about. Love her. Thank you very much for asking.

Victoria Volk 57:53
You’re welcome. We have a lot of love around you. I imagine some. Thank you. Thank you. That’ll get you through anything else you’d like to share?

Kristine Carlson 58:01
No, I feel very complete. Thank you so much for doing this podcast. I can see it’s going to be a great service to others. I can’t wait to share it with my community as well. So thank you, Victoria. You have a wonderful demeanor and presence. And now I’m sure you’re doing beautiful work with people. So lucky to have you.

Victoria Volk 58:18
Thank you. Thank you for that. And thank you for your time today and for sharing. Also, of course. And remember when you unleash your heart, you unleash your life. Much love


Pin It on Pinterest

Share This
Skip to content