Jen: [00:00:00] You're listening to the Vibrant Happy Women Podcast. Today I'm talking with my best friend Kitt about her recent year-and-a-half-long journey of grief. Stay tuned.
Intro: [00:00:11] Are you ready to expand your soul's capacity for joy? Then this podcast is for you. I'm Dr. Jen Riday and welcome to Vibrant Happy Women.
Jen: [00:00:23] Hey, my friends. I'm back and want to tell you why I haven't been releasing very many podcast episodes this year. 18 months ago, my best friend's husband was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Very aggressive prostate cancer. His name is Blake. My best friend is Kitt. She's been on this podcast before. It was shocking because he was only 50 years old at the time of diagnosis and they did a chemo journey, and then a year ago this month, they found out the chemo hadn't worked and the doctor gave him six months to live. That was so shocking. I want to back up a little bit and describe Kitt and Blake to you. I met Kitt in Madison well over a decade ago, and she's super tall like me. We're both six feet tall and she is super authentic and loving. I think she has the superpower of being a friend. Those of you who have been at the Vibrant Happy Women Retreat may have met Kitt. She's been at a couple of them. And if you've met her, you love her. To know Kitt is to love Kitt.
Jen: [00:01:34] Well, Blake is the same way. Happy, positive, exciting, funny. The best people to be around. They're so good at playing and hosting and cooking. Oh, my gosh. The food. So when I found out Blake was going to die, it hit me like a knife in my heart. So awful. So I have been grieving this past year, right along with my best friend, Kitt. In addition to that, I've had some challenges with one of my kids who is currently being officially diagnosed with autism, maybe some other stuff, and she ended up leaving school to begin homeschooling. It was a year of big changes. Well, recently, on July 3rd, Blake passed away and I just returned home from spending time with Kitt, supporting her through the grief process. And while I was with Kitt, we recorded an episode for you about what it's been like for her. I personally think Kitt has handled this grief like a pro if there is such a thing. I mean, yes, she had waves of sorrow and she would often call me sobbing with the anticipatory grief leading up to what she knew would be Blake's eventual passing. Losing Blake all along the way, piece by piece, as his body changed and as his personality shifted the grief after he's gone and thinking about this life that's ahead of her, what is she going to do now? She had created this vision of a life with her husband, and now he's gone.
Jen: [00:03:10] So whether you've dealt with a big loss in the form of death or not, this episode is for you. Because we all face moments that knock us down and we all need tools in our tool belt to keep ourselves going at times, to just keep swimming. So this episode is for all of us. It's actually quite uplifting, you'll find, and I hope you, like me, will be in awe of Kitt and her dedication to Blake in the past year and a half. Her ability to grieve and understand grief at that experiential level and not just the cognitive brain level, but a full, visceral, full-body knowing of how to handle grief. So let's go ahead and dive in.
Jen: [00:03:58] All right. I'm here at Kitt's house. Kitt is my best friend and has been for a long time. She helped me through a lot of hard experiences earlier in my life, and she has been going through a hard experience. Kitt lost her husband, Blake a few weeks ago. I've been here kind of helping Kitt gather her life together after his funeral, and we thought we'd record an episode on grief. So, Kitt, tell us, how did you deal with the emotions of everything that was happening? What was your emotional journey like throughout that process?
Kitt: [00:04:36] You know, it was interesting because Blake was always a super healthy person. Like, I can only remember – I've been married almost 29 years, 29 this September. I can only remember a handful of times of him ever being sick. So I think when we first heard of it, it was kind of surreal and shocking and like, “Huh, that's something that we hear about happening to other people, but not to us.” And then, um, I was like, “Oh, he'll, breeze through it like everything else. This is just another learning lesson for us.” And then, um, when we got to the final stage of chemo and his liver was failing and they're like, “There's nothing more we can do.” All of a sudden it was like, “Oh, we're not getting out of this. We're not breezing through this.” Um, but, you know, I think in the early stages there was shock and disbelief and then there was this sense of anticipatory grief of things we would lose. Um, but then as it progressed, that anticipatory grief just became a daily loss, like your life changes so fast all the time and you're constantly losing things that used to be part of your identity for both of you. Um, and then after he died, it's been this, I think I definitely learned that your body stores trauma in it. Like, because any pain I had was way amplified by the trauma of this process. And I think your body stores that and helps you muddle through until you have time and so after he died then all of a sudden I have this giant sciatica flare-up from nowhere. I've never had sciatica before. And, um, you just feel generally not great. And I've heard that that's a fairly common thing to have happen after.
Jen: [00:06:48] So I guess let's go back to, I remember when Blake was diagnosed and we were all in total shock and then we all hoped and prayed that the chemo would work. But what was Blake saying as he approached the scan to see if the chemo had worked?
Kitt: [00:07:04] Oh, well, we didn't even get through all of our chemo. We went in for the final session and he was amped and we were sure that this was it. And then they took his blood like they do every time. So anyway, his liver numbers were so bad that he couldn't get the final chemo. Okay? And that's when they were like, he's in liver failure. And, um, at the time we didn't realize how serious it was. Um, but they're like, you know, why don't we try and get you into the hospital here? That way you can get to see a hepatologist earlier. Otherwise, the wait time is kind of long, you know, And then, you know, we'll see from there. But, uh, that was a huge disappointment for him. He crumbled and was just, uh, he had to get out of there. I couldn't say anything to him. And he was just crying, crying, crying. Because I think it was like the first time he was like, “I've failed at something, you know?” Yeah, it was really hard for him. And I was just thinking, “Oh, let's just get this liver taken care of, and then we can go back and get the chemo,” you know?
Jen: [00:08:16] And then a few weeks later, you got the results of the scans to see if the chemo had worked. My phone says it was July 19th. I don't know if that's true or not, but somewhere around there sounds right. In 2022. Uh, you got the results. Can you describe what that day was like?
Kitt: [00:08:35] Well, that was the day where they basically told us, you know, “It's time to get your affairs in order.” And I mean, they'd been encouraging us to kind of prepare all along because like, any of us really know how long we have. But, um, they were like, “I'm sorry, this is heartbreaking. There's literally nothing more we can do for you.” Wow. And that was, we had, I think, we had both our boys in there when we got that news. And it was a sad, heavy, heavy feeling. And again, that disbelief, like this can't be real.
Jen: [00:09:21] How did your boys react?
Kitt: [00:09:23] Um, you know, I don't really remember now.
Jen: [00:09:29] Yeah.
Kitt: [00:09:30] It's funny how, like…
Jen: [00:09:32] That's traumatic.
Kitt: [00:09:32] You think that it would be seared in you forever, but it, you know, there's just so much that happens afterward. It all kind of melds together.
Jen: [00:09:42] And I remember you letting everyone know and how shocked we all were because, you know, prostate cancer, people live with it for years. I mean, we all thought he would have at least five years. And they told you, what, 6 to 12 months, right?
Kitt: [00:10:00] Yeah. They said. Well, they didn't think he would make it until Christmas.
Jen: [00:10:03] Really? Of 2022? Gosh. You've told me many times Blake was the love of your life. And you've also, you also went through this process of losing him even though he was still alive. Talk about that. That's unique and not something I think most of us realize happens.
Kitt: [00:10:23] Yeah, I think I didn't realize the nature of it. So when you have prostate cancer in order to stop it, it feeds on testosterone is one of the things, and so they put a testosterone blocker on you and that basically is like a castration drug and it changes who that person is. Right? Because the chemical makeup is different now. He smelled different. So I lost the way he smelled very early on. And then when, you know, the nature of our relationship changed now, um, you know, he can't be an emotional support to me. He's trying to just survive. And, and I'm going through this in a different way because he's on the journey of trying not to leave or leaving, and I'm on the journey of being left. And, so even though we're in this same experience, it's not the same experience at all. Um, there's something called chemo brain, which is really real. If any of you have been pregnant, you realize, you remember when you're pregnant and you get all, kind of cloudy and foggy and you can't seem to concentrate. Same thing happened. Um, and so then there was a lot of forgetfulness and a lot of other things. Blake was always a very quick, solid-minded person and I lost that. And so the very nature of your relationship changes. Now, all of a sudden he's in, you know, he's uncomfortable, he's in pain. All these things. You can't snuggle anymore. The intimacy is gone. There's all this uncertainty because you don't know what your future looks like. Everything you'd hope for, for your future, is gone. And so you just, this whole relationship just takes this massive hit. And as much as people are supportive and kind and loving, the losses that nobody sees are the ones that you can't really talk about with everybody. And the tendency is to go, “Well, he's the one who's dying of cancer. What are you worried about?” You know what I mean? And yet there's just loss everywhere. Everybody hurts, you know?
Jen: [00:12:37] Yeah, I mean, not only the loss, you know, I saw this, witnessed it. The loss of Blake as you had known him before. So it was like it was halfway there, you know, even though you loved even that. But also the loss of what you had hoped for the future, was huge. Yeah, just talk about that a little more.
Kitt: [00:12:56] So I was one of the women that always looked forward to having an empty nest. Yes. And having this future. Blake and I built a friendship and a commonality, and I wanted that before we had kids so I knew that we could have that after we had kids. And so when our kids were getting ready to leave and things, I was looking forward to that time where it would be him and I, and we could go have adventures and do these things, just laughter, and fun, and not be stressing about stuff anymore, you know? And then all of a sudden that all goes away.
Jen: [00:13:28] So we'll go back and talk about the grief process and how you made it through that. But here we are, Blake is gone and you have this whole second half of your life to plan. Like, what is that like to think about this whole life with Blake? And he was the breadwinner and you were waiting for your kids to leave. And now here you are. Your kids are empty nesting. You'll be completely alone in a couple of months. How do you take all of that and try to plan the second half of your life?
Jen: [00:14:00] Um, right now I'm not in the planning phase, but it is overwhelming and very scary. Uh. You know, there are these things of, “Oh, I don't know if I have what it takes. I used to do this stuff, but I don't know if I have what it takes anymore.” Um, I think the scarier part for me is because I've never lost anybody close to me before. Um, the only thing I have to relate it to is like breaking up with a boyfriend, and then you move on, right? But yet I've invested almost 30 years of my life building something with this person, and now they're gone. And does, you know, moving forward mean I have to forget that part? Just like when you break up with a boyfriend, you're kind of like, “Oh, yeah, I dated somebody once,” you know? Except this is 30 years of that, you know? Um, and I don't want to do that, but yet I also don't want to be crippled by, um, grief and loss every single day, you know? So I don't know what that looks like. I don't know how that navigate it, but that's the scariest part to me.
Jen: [00:15:15] So let's, let's dive into grief and loss because I think whether – we've all had grief and loss, the loss of a life we thought we were going to have, the loss of how we thought our children were going to behave, the loss of our health, the loss of a job. And there are all these moments where we have to grieve and kind of wrap our brains around a new reality. So thinking back to, you know, your time leading up to Blake's death, how did you handle that grief and what is your understanding of grief, having been through that?
Kitt: [00:15:49] So, I believe in a God. I was prepared for this before. In 2020, I had taken a life coaching certification from you, which I was going to use to help people uplevel their thoughts and, you know, not be captive victims to their mind thoughts anymore. And then I was looking for a job as a life coach. And while I was doing that, I was taking some online classes and I decided to take a series on trauma because I was like, you know, “I want to be able to understand this better.” I haven't had any massive trauma in my life. I've had little traumas, but nothing horrific. And so through the National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioral Medicine, I took a series on trauma, and that's where I learned about Polyvagal and the nervous system, how your rational mind can go offline when you're in fight or flight or freeze and faint, all those kinds of things. And then shortly after that finished up was when Blake started having those problems. And then we went on this whole journey and I realized, oh, it was all preparing me for it.
Jen: [00:17:16] So you were prepared ahead for what you had to face?
Kitt: [00:17:19] I was in a way. But what I've learned through my biggest lesson, through this whole cancer journey has been that there is academic knowledge and then there's experiential knowledge. And experiential knowledge trumps academic knowledge every time. And even though I had those tools which helped me handle it better, it didn't mean it was a breeze. It didn't mean I was immune. You know, I called you many times crumbling, and you had to pull me out of that fight or flight or freeze and faint mode to get back to where I could make decisions. But at least I had a concept of what was happening. And I didn't feel so adrift because I knew that this was part of the human experience. You also sent me an article on grief early, probably in the first 3 or 4 months by Brené Brown from Atlas of the Heart, and that was incredibly helpful to go, “OK, I'm not losing my mind.” Because I think when it happens, you just go, “Oh my gosh, is this what I'm like now? Am I forever changed and this is the new normal?” And you don't realize that it's a process or that the things that you're experiencing that feel so foreign and weird to you are actually just part of the human experience of grief.
Jen: [00:18:43] Yeah. Share the analogy of the CD-Rom, the spinning.
Kitt: [00:18:49] Um…
Jen: [00:18:50] I'll share it then. Okay. <laughs>
Kitt: [00:18:51] Yeah, go for it. I'm like, I'm drawing a blank right now.
Jen: [00:18:54] Um, when you're grieving, when you're facing the loss of something, you know, the loss of a job, the loss of health, the loss of a loved one, your brain is like those old CD-rom discs that used to spin, and you'd get the clicking on the computer. It was spinning, spinning, spinning. Your brain kind of does that when you're grieving because it's trying to start building a whole new neural network of your life without that thing that you're going to be grieving, you know? Yours was Blake. Remember?
Kitt: [00:19:29] Yeah. Well, yeah, I remember it. Part of the grief process is really having to reshape your reality where this person took up space after they're gone, you have to reshape all that reality to not include that anymore. And so you keep running into this space where they used to be. Yeah. And that's painful. Yeah.
Jen: [00:19:54] So that was happening and it was affecting your ability to make decisions. It was affecting your executive function, your ability to do day-to-day life. What else was it doing?
Kitt: [00:20:06] Um, so my anxiety was coming out at night as I tried to sleep and I would wake up with just this really sore jaw and neck and it felt like somebody was grabbing my heart and just squeezing it all the time. Breathing became difficult. Like I said, all my regular aches and pains of aging were just like, amplified and magnified. Um, it was, it was pretty brutal. Yeah.
Jen: [00:20:35] So often you would call me. And just from your perspective, what tools or what was most helpful in coping with all of those overwhelming feelings of, this grieving process, this anticipatory grief?
Kitt: [00:20:53] Um, well, so I had the polyvagal with the breathing to be able to identify where I was at and then try and, counteract that. But that wasn't like a magic pill. None of the tools are magic pills. You don't just take one and you're fixed. It actually came down to, I think, after several sessions with you where you were like, you know, maybe you should look at getting additional, um, medicinal help. And because I was trying to be very allowing and recognizing though I have this wave of sadness, I'm fine, I'll let it pass through. I was trying not to store anything or hold anything. So that's where I was using those tools. But I was still breaking down many times a day into just uncontrollable sobbing and sadness. And I later found out that when you cry those loss tears, that's your body trying to get rid of cortisol. And so I was trying, but I was just it was too much. And so I did go to my doctor and get a prescription of, um, what is it called now? Drawn a blank.
Jen: [00:22:05] Prozac.
Kitt: [00:22:05] Prozac. Yes. Just to help. It didn't deaden me. I just took a little dose to kind of stop the depth and the rise of the anxiety and the depression, so it was more manageable to heal, to go through so that I could have some functionality.
Jen: [00:22:27] Yeah. I, I remember a time when you were moving or you had moved, your prescription ran out and I could, I could literally see your mood tanking. And I strongly encouraged you. And luckily you did. You went and got the prescription refilled. But it was amazing how much medicine helped. And you're still taking medicine, right?
Kitt: [00:22:49] Yes, I am. And it, absolutely I was skeptical. And I'm not somebody who, like, wants to have to depend on anything, but I also had to weigh out. Like, I remember when I decided to do it the way where you're like, “Go get that prescription refilled,” was because I was trying to go do something at a bank and I couldn't even go in because I was just sobbing so much that I was like, “I can't even do the things I need to do because I don't know when I'm just going to break down into tears and uncontrollable sobbing.” And so I was like, “I've got to, I've got to get back to where I can manage it a little better.”
Jen: [00:23:29] So the Prozac worked? It raised your mood baseline and helped you function?
Kitt: [00:23:34] Yeah, Like I said, I still can cry. I still have sadness and I still have ups. But it was interesting to note that because the Prozac extends the time that your dopamine is being uptaken I guess. Um, without it I went looking at like sugars and other things to get that dopamine hit. That I didn't do when I was on the Prozac – well I'm still on it. But because I was aware like, “Oh, I'm needing more dopamine than my body is producing for me right now.” Yeah.
Jen: [00:24:13] That's really great. So you were on Prozac and then you mentioned other tools. Can you just go into more specifics for the other tools that you're using in the moments like in between?
Kitt: [00:24:24] Sure. Yeah. Like, so one of the things that was helpful early on with that Brené Brown article is she quoted somebody who said grief needs to be witnessed. And so there were times where I just needed to talk to somebody and have them witness and go, “I'm sorry, that really sucks.” And it's not that I wanted somebody to feel sorry for me or anything. I just needed somebody to be with me in that moment. I didn't need them to fix anything. I just needed somebody to be with me in the moment. And that was a very powerful one. Another tool I used was I decided early on that I was going to pray to see the miracles. And so with that lens, um, I call this whole journey a beautiful and terrible thing because there were lots of terrible moments, but there were many, many beautiful moments. And I think because of using that tool of choosing what to focus on it, it didn't take away the pain, but it definitely allowed me to see it's not just all horrifying.
Jen: [00:25:38] Yeah, Yeah. What were some of the miracles you witnessed?
Kitt: [00:25:42] Um, you know, we had moved a lot, and the miracles of that are the support that came from all over of people with prayers, good vibes, with, um, cards, with calling us. Not a lot of us know when we get to check out. And so because Blake sort of had an issue, you know, an expiration-ish date, people would call and tell him things in person that you would normally only hear at a funeral. There were people of different belief systems who all came together, united under this idea that we're sending all these great things for you, prayers and good wishes and things like that. Um, it was just, there's just so many little miracles, you know? We look at it as a miracle that he had urinary problems and had to have an operation done because that's how they found the cancer. You know? Otherwise, we might never have known. And really, one day he could have just…
Jen: [00:26:46] Whoa.
Kitt: [00:26:47] Yeah, you know what I mean? So, yeah, Um.
Jen: [00:26:50] And then the miracle at the end with the Airbnb.
Kitt: [00:26:54] That's right. So Blake's work, the way they handled it was such a miracle, too. But they had wanted to do something for him, so they rented an Airbnb for us to have a 4th of July get-together. And his family came in and our kids came in and all of us were there. And Blake was so looking forward to it.
Jen: [00:27:14] Yeah, because he planned all the meals. You bought amazing ingredients. It was just going to be a blowout.
Kitt: [00:27:22] Yeah. And two weeks before this we'd started on hospice, and so he needed oxygen and things like that. And so we're all there on about July 1st and we're having some good times and things like that. His cousins come up from California and are able to visit with him and we've done some things, but Blake is tired. You can tell he's tired and he's having to use oxygen more and more. He's in a wheelchair at this point. I'm now having to go with him to the bathroom because he's had some falls and we don't want to risk him falling someplace where we can't get to him. And July 3rd, we decide to use our son, decides to do some recordings of Dad's memories.
Jen: [00:28:06] You mean July second?
Kitt: [00:28:07] Yeah. Sorry. July 2nd. Thank you. Yeah. Um, and so he spends a good probably hour visiting with Blake. Everybody's like, “Oh, since we're all here, let's take a picture.” And I'm like, I'm complaining, I'm like, “Oh, I don't have my hair and makeup done. Half of you guys are coming out of the pool. What are we why don't we just do this tomorrow?” They're like, “Well, how about we get one today and then we'll get a good one tomorrow?” We're like, “okay.” And then that night is the night he died. So it was pretty miraculous that and he got to eat and visit.
Jen: [00:28:44] He ate the day before he died. His favorite meal, which was?
Kitt: [00:28:48] Lomo saltado. Yeah.
Jen: [00:28:50] Yeah. From Peru.
Kitt: [00:28:51] Yeah. It's a Peruvian dish. And he got to visit with everybody. And then at 10:00 the next morning, he was gone. It was so bizarre, but it was just really a tender little mercy that A) nobody listened to me saying, “let's not take the picture” because that's the last picture we had. And B) that everybody got time with him. Like it didn't occur to any of us that he wouldn't be here tomorrow, you know?
Jen: [00:29:24] Yeah. So two weeks on hospice. I think it's okay to share he used one diaper. You had worried that you were going to have to change diapers and you weren't looking forward to that.
Kitt: [00:29:40] Yeah.
Jen: [00:29:40] That's awesome. So you were in this beautiful Airbnb paid for by his company. Remember – the day you called me like six minutes after he passed and asked me to tell people – and I was shocked. I mean, you were shocked, right?
Kitt: [00:29:56] Absolutely. Yeah. The actual process of passing was different than I anticipated it being, as well.
Jen: [00:30:03] So without the details, she's talking about – what's that called?
Kitt: [00:30:09] Um, terminal agitation.
Jen: [00:30:11] Terminal agitation. 30% of people dying get it. And Blake had it. So on TV, you always see this peaceful passing, but a lot of times, you know, their oxygen is dropping and there's just agitation, which is a little upsetting to people. But he only had that for, what, an hour?
Kitt: [00:30:31] Um, it was longer than an hour because during the night he kept trying to get up and I kept trying to tell him to just stay in bed. Um, and that was another little miracle, actually was being able to spend the last night with him in bed like he never had to have a separate hospital bed or anything.
Jen: [00:30:49] That's true. And when he actually passed, your daughter Eden was cuddling with him, right?
Kitt: [00:30:55] Yep. Yep. We were all there. His parents were there. The kids were there. And, um, yeah, he had all his family around him, you know?
Jen: [00:31:07] Yeah. And then another miracle of the Airbnb was everyone was in town. Everyone ended up staying in town and had a place to stay for free leading up to the funeral.
Kitt: [00:31:21] Yeah because everybody was planning on leaving on July 5th, but his work had booked the Airbnb through the 8th. And so because he died on the 3rd, it was more convenient and easier for everybody to just extend their flights. So we had it on the seventh, the funeral. And so everybody had a place to stay until…
Jen: [00:31:41] Wait a minute! I didn't know that! So you didn't even need it till the 8th, but they booked it till the 8th? How miraculous!
Kitt: [00:31:48] Yeah, I know, I know. So he had told people we're having people in from 30th through the 5th. Yeah. And I think it was Dave at work texted him back and he said, “I booked it from the 28th through the 8th.”
Jen: [00:32:06] Oh, wow. Yeah, that was miraculous!
Kitt: [00:32:10] Yeah.
Jen: [00:32:11] Oh, another miracle. Do you want to share the insurance one?
Kitt: [00:32:16] Oh, yeah, this was a miracle early on because Blake had always carried life insurance and he was up for a renewal on his term. And he was supposed to get visited by a nurse from the insurance company in August, but we ended up getting COVID. And so it pushed off till September. And she came and he had the best numbers he's had. Like he had a great review. And so he got renewed.
Jen: [00:32:50] And they didn't detect any cancer?
Kitt: [00:32:52] No, they took blood. They did all this stuff. They did his prostate. His prostate PSA was low. All of it. Yeah. And then – so that was in September – and then in October, he started having urinary problems and then everything went downhill after that.
Jen: [00:33:09] That is miraculous. So life insurance renewed just in time?
Kitt: [00:33:13] It did. I mean, really miraculous. Yeah, yeah.
Jen: [00:33:20] Well, so many miracles. I'll just share, from my perspective, I felt like your grief hit you in waves and maybe this is another analogy, but I remember telling you this grief is going to be with you forever, from my understanding of grief. And it will hit in waves and sometimes the waves are just crashing on you so you can barely breathe. And sometimes there's a little more space between the waves and it's gentler. And has that felt true to you?
Kitt: [00:33:49] Oh, I feel like that's 100% true. You know, I feel like, you know, some of the waves, you can just kind of step over, and some of the waves, you know, they kind of rock you a little bit. But then there's those tsunamis that come up out of nowhere and just churn you and churn you. And that's where reaching out for more than just what I have in my toolbox for me is where I've found that I need to recognize that I need to do that as soon as possible before I get tumbled too much. Yeah, those giant, giant waves. I think those are the ones where you need somebody to witness for you.
Jen: [00:34:33] So for those listening, what if they feel like they don't have a person like that? Because I'm not sure everyone does. I don't know. What do you think?
Kitt: [00:34:41] I know that there's grief groups around. There's always people to talk to, but I'm also a resource now because of experiencing loss. I have a much better understanding.
Jen: [00:34:59] You're a coach. You went through the coach certification. So if people want to have grief coaching, you do that.
Kitt: [00:35:10] Yes.
Jen: [00:35:10] And so if people want support from you, how would they reach out to you?
Kitt: [00:35:10] They could reach me at KittRothstein@gmail.com.
Jen: [00:35:15] I've found that therapists and coaches are the best listeners because you don't have to feel like you're just dumping on them, but you're giving them something in return to witness your grief, then you don't feel as beholden to them. You know what I mean? Do you feel the same?
Kitt: [00:35:33] Um, I just feel like because they have a clear understanding of a safe space and not needing to fix, where friends oftentimes – they love you so much and they just want to help you get out of pain, you know? That was another experience with cancer was watching somebody you love be tortured and not being able to do anything about it. That's a horrible psychological thing to have to deal with. And coaches, because they're trained for safe spaces, they just allow you that without this fix-it energy, which is helpful at appropriate times, but it is not when you are in the middle of grieving.
Jen: [00:36:13] Yeah, absolutely agree. Talk a little bit more about, you know, Blake is gone. What have you been coming up against? You know, he passed, you had a funeral. What was that like to have everyone there and then the days after the funeral?
Kitt: [00:36:32] Okay, so the funeral was something that I was like, “I don't even want to be at this.” I told everybody – because, you know, we have friends all over, Like, “I'm not going to be able to…” and I'm like, “No worries. Like, if you need to be there for you, great. And if you don't, don't.” I didn't even want to be there. But I found another tender mercy or surprising thing was that as I was at the funeral and we had this communal experience of all of us being brought together because of one person and honoring that person, it was very uplifting and I had a dopamine high the rest of the day, and I was so glad that I had done that. I had not really understood why we do funerals before. But I think I got a little glimpse of, “Oh, this is part of mourning together.” And it is very therapeutic. So I really enjoyed that. What I expected, you know, you're like, the worst happened and then you expected to get a little easier as you move away from that event. But what I've been finding is that it gets heavier the farther away I move, because I think it's that reality thing where you keep coming up against places where I'm like, “Oh, I found a meme, I want to share this with Blake” and he's not there anymore. Or, you know, at night alone in bed. And I think the further you get from that, the reality sets in even heavier that this is how it is now. And that's a new heaviness to cope with in some ways.
Jen: [00:38:20] And your heaviest time is when you wake up.
Kitt: [00:38:22] Yeah, yeah, yeah, for sure. My heaviest time is when I wake up and I look at the prospect of having to do a whole day of, you know, trying to be a functional human being when I just want to pretend none of this happened. Right?
Jen: [00:38:40] Right. So how do you have any hopefulness for the future when you know you're going to carry that heaviness for a lot of your, you know, days, a lot of your life?
Kitt: [00:38:53] Hmm. Again, I think it comes down to – and I don't know that I've hit on a perfect formula yet – but it comes down to keep trying to refocus on the things that are beautiful and wonderful. And so when the support keeps coming in and a text or a card or whatever it is, trying to just open myself to all that love without having it just reminds me of the loss. But just to go, “There's just people out there who just are sending all these beautiful efforts to me and the world is full of good things.
Jen: [00:39:45] Right. Right. Also, I've seen you grieve during my time here. We've talked a lot about Blake, like, as someone supporting someone going through grief, you don't know what they'll want, but we've talked about him and it hasn't been terribly painful. Right? We've been looking at pictures and I mean, it's painful, but also healing, right?
Kitt: [00:40:05] It is. It is. Because it keeps them with you in a little fashion, I guess you could say. Yeah, for sure. Yeah. You know, I liken the whole experience of this to, you know, when you were in school and you had a final coming up and you studied and you thought you knew all the stuff, right? Because I'd been prepared. And then I was educating myself and, you know, I was studying all along. And then you get to the test and you're like, “Holy crap, I didn't even know this was on the test! Like, what?” And you have this panic. That's pretty much what it's like as you approach this nearing death experience and then you're going through it and you're like, “Wow, I didn't even know that was part of the experience of it.” Which is why I say that experience trumps academic knowledge all the time, because I, you know, studied and prepared and been prepared academically for it, but it's still a different experience to go through it.
Jen: [00:41:09] How will you interact with others who are grieving now that you've been through it? Is there an automatic bond in a way?
Kitt: [00:41:18] Um, I think for me, what I realized was I was one of those people who didn't like to see people in pain, right? And so I would try and help them get out of that pain. But sometimes we need to be in that pain for a moment and we just need to sit with that person in the pain for a moment. Not because they're going to live there, but just because they just need to know that they're not alone in it. Do you know what I mean? And so that's the way I think I kind of am looking at it now. And also I think it's important to let them know that you're not crazy. You're not losing your mind. You're not. These are all normal reactions to processes, and it's okay. And it's not forever, right? So I think that is where I'm at with this whole process.
Jen: [00:42:15] Well, you're amazing. Your voice quavered a couple of times, but you didn't even cry, which shocks me. But I want to thank you for being so vulnerable and authentic. I think you're so strong. But it's also okay when you don't feel strong. Love you.
Kitt: [00:42:33] Thank you. I love you, too.
Jen: [00:42:35] If this episode resonated for you or you'd like help getting through a difficult situation or coping with a loss, reach out to Kitt. She is a fantastic coach. I know this because she coaches me all the time. You can email her for more information about her coaching at KittRothstein@gmail.com. Also, if you'd like to meet Kitt in person, she will be at the next Vibrant Happy Women Retreat and you can lock in your spot to be there with her and with me at JenRiday.com/Retreat. My friends, you've got this. I love you. I'll see you again next week. Until then, make it a vibrant and happy week. Take care.
Outro: [00:43:19] If you enjoy this podcast, you'd love Vibrant Soul – the place to heal, transform and expand your Soul with like-minded friends. Join us at jenriday.com/vibrantsoul.