Grief and loss touch us all in ways both small and big throughout our lives, yet our culture often struggles to embrace the messy emotions that grief brings.
On today’s On Health episode, I'm joined by author and cancer thriver Kris Carr to discuss her latest book, “I'm Not a Mourning Person,” which dives deep into the complexities of grief and healing. We explore how life's ruptures turn our world upside down and reshape us, and the importance of acknowledging grief and the difference between ‘getting over it' and ‘getting through it. We also explore the importance of radical self-compassion along the way.
Kris and I get into:
- The many ways we face grief from loss of a loved, the loss of a pregnancy, the loss of a marriage oor the loss of how we thought life would be
- The ‘messy mascara moment’ that lled to her emotional epiphany
- Overcoming the belief that emotions are ‘unbecoming' and how they are actually part of becoming our whole selves
- The moments of rupture in her life and how she’s moved through them
- Anticipatory grief and how it can be a gift – but also keep us from being present
- The power of accepting help
- How to be more ‘grief literate' when talking with someone going through loss
- The 5 pillars of wellness Kris practices during times of distress
- How to approach work when you just can’t show up the same way during grief
Thank you so much for taking the time to tune in to your body, yourself, and this podcast! Please share the love by sending this to someone in your life who could benefit from the kinds of things we talk about in this space. Make sure to follow me on Instagram @dr.avivaromm to join the conversation. Follow Kris there @crazysexykris and grab a copy of her new book “I’m Not a Mourning Person” at www.kriscarr.com.
Aviva: Grief and Loss. They're a part of life that nobody wants to experience, but ultimately we all do in some form or another, smaller and bigger. Whether it's the loss of a vision you had for how things would be in your life, the loss of a job, the end of a marriage, or the loss of a loved one. Loss can take so many forms and we all experience it, but our culture remains judgmental and repressive about big, messy feelings. In fact, it wasn't until just recently that the Diagnostic and Statistics Manual, the main manual that psychiatrists use for diagnosis considered sadness, depression, and other emotions lasting longer than three months after losing someone close to you as diagnosable as depression and not grief. Fortunately, we now know that grief has its own timeline, but still, how do we let our hearts get cracked wide open by life and still function, cope, and even learn to thrive with all the feelings.
My guest today, Kris Carr, is a woman I always love running into at a gathering because she's at once poised, elegant, brilliant and downright hilarious, a multiple New York Times bestselling author, wellness activist, and 20-year cancer thriver. She's been called a force of nature by O Magazine and was named a new role model by the New York Times. Kris is also a member of Oprah's Super Soul 100, recognizing the most influential Thought leaders Today. She is a Success magazine blog star and one of greatest top 100 most influential people in health and fitness. Kris is also the winner of the books for a Better Life Award and a SHORTY Award honoring the best brands in healthy living on social media. Kris lectures at hospitals conference and corporations. Media appearances include Glamour, Prevention, Scientific American, Good Morning America, the Today Show, CBS Evening News, the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Success, Super Soul Sunday and the Oprah Winfrey Show. She's also the subject and director of the documentary, Crazy Sexy Cancer, which premiered at the South by Southwest Film Festival and arid on TLC and the Oprah Winfrey Network, a self-described irreverent foot soldier in the fight against disease. Kris teaches people how to take back their health and live like they mean it. Her new book, I'm Not a Mourning Person, and that's M O U R N I N G, braving laws Grief and the big messy emotions that happen when Life falls apart is what we're here to talk about today.
Kris, welcome. It's so good to be with you again. I love you. I love you too, Aviva. It's so nice to see you, and thank you for having me on your wonderful show. It is such a delight to have this moment with you. It's been a while. I know it really has. So I want to just be really transparent. I'm going through grief right now. I was really thinking about this as I was getting ready for the show and for me, the grief is I'm going to try not to cry, but a couple of years ago we uncovered a major trauma that had happened to one of our children vis-a-vis an extended family member, and that rippled through my family in a way that left some really insidious trauma that we didn't know about. My husband and I had no idea this was happening, and I mean I've had losses in my life, friendships changing or a family member passing, but as I was reading through your book, it just really dawned on me how for me grief, it feels like someone dropped anchor in my chest.
It's this feeling of permanence and pervasiveness and personalization. It's always going to be like this. It's somehow my fault and it kind of colors everything. And so I am in the process of learning how to hold space for it all and show up and do my life. So I just want to acknowledge that there are so many ways that grief can happen and you had a major loss in your life and you've had many moments where you had to transform even your identity in your diagnosis, for example. So what led you at this time in your life to write?
Kris: I am not a morning person. Yeah, well, first and foremost, I want to acknowledge you for sharing your grief. Thank you. I think that's really powerful and very important, and the whole reason why I wrote this book is so that more of us can do that because I do think it's one of the emotions that we stuff under the carpet and things that we stuff pile up and it's physics. They'll come out one way, it'll come out another way. Sometimes they come out in eruptions, sometimes they come out in illness, but it's energy and energy needs to move. And for me, I think about the organs of my body that at times I was frustrated with or mad at or sad about because I have tumors in my liver and both of my lungs. And as you were talking so beautifully about the grief that you're experiencing, I thought, what if I compared an emotion, grief to my liver, for example of I don't like my liver.
Aviva, you as a doctor would be like, well, why don't you like your liver? Your liver is very important and all of your organs are wonderful, and tell me more about why you don't like it. You know what I mean? We can't get rid of it. It's a part of us and we need it. And I'd say that this journey has taught me that I can't get rid of grief. It's one of my emotions, and we can't amputate any of them, expect to be whole. And for the longest time I had tried that. And so I think where this book came from was sort of a perfect storm, so to speak, of coming up against my 20-year anniversary of living with stage four cancer when I was given 10 years to live originally, and lots of radical treatment suggestions, my father being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer that would become terminal, the global pandemic that we all lived through and how that changed our lives in many ways, divided people and camps that we weren't prepared for necessarily.
And then as a result of the things that were happening, some of the choices that I made to intentionally be much more a part of my family's life, but also to be more engaged in the healing process and growth process that I was going through. I changed parts of my business that impacted our income. So there were a lot of things happening all at once. And then you put on top of that, it had been quite some time since I had written a book and published a book and your publishers are chomping like, Hey, it's about that time, kind of start thinking about writing that next book. And I naturally wanted to write something inspirational, aspirational, we're all in a difficult place. Maybe there's a light filled book that I can write that will help lift humanity. And I was like, I have no energy for that.
That makes me want to drink gin and nap my life away, not the place that I was. And yet I think that what I ended up writing was something that is very light filled. I just didn't see it that way at the time. And the reason why it's called I'm Not a morning person is as I said to you, it's the one emotion I didn't want to experience. And that's when I realized the way out is through. And what you're running from is oftentimes something you want to move towards. And I'm so grateful for the process and all that I learned by going through it.
Aviva: One of the things that really struck me in the book was just this sort of moment of mascara running, snot pouring, crying that you had. Can you talk about the emotions you were holding and then how you just finally did that? I'm a crier, I'm an easy crier, but not everybody is right. And it sounded like you weren't.
Kris: No, I wasn't grew up in an environment where certain emotions were kind of taboo and my very well-meaning grandmother who partly raised me, I remember there's a chapter called Becoming Unbecoming, and there were all these emotions that she would say, these are unbecoming emotions for a lady. Don't be angry, don't cry, don't do this, that and the other thing. And so I think I absorbed those messages and I do my best to have a poker face until it gets beyond my ability to contain things. So cut to this point in the book is at the early parts of the book where I'm in c v s and I am going through the aisles because my mother had asked me to run an errand, and that was to get more unsure for my dad. And he probably had a few weeks left of his life at this point.
This was the only thing that he could really consume. And I stopped at the aisle and I thought to myself, I wonder how many I should get? Should I get a whole case? Should I get a few six packs? Because I was thinking, how long does he have to live now? These weren't conscious thoughts, this was just what popped into my mind. And in that moment, the overwhelming tsunami of emotions that I had been putting down came up and I literally was just running to my car to try to find a place of privacy to let it all go. And when I did let it all go, I had this epiphany of wow, I didn't die. It wasn't too much for me to handle all the things that we think. If I let myself feel this, I'll never come back from it. I'll just be swept out to see that did not happen. And in some way I felt better. And then I thought to myself, if feeling my emotions helps me feel better, why have I avoided them so much? And is there something in this avoidance that's going to take me to my next level of healing? And the answer was yes. And so that's the mascara moment.
Aviva: As you were saying the word unbecoming, I had this sort of one of those epiphanies you get of the zen moment. And we just think about that. What if going through our emotions is becoming whole? What are we becoming and how do we not become? Words are such a thing for me, but what is it, the deeper meaning that is unbecoming. Unbecoming. What?
Kris: I love it. I think that's so smart and so fun because I'm much like you and think what I have learned is you will not become what you're meant to become if you don't experience these emotions. So if you do push down anger, that is an unbecoming process because you are literally dismantling your growth.
Aviva: Yes. For me, the grief that I talked about earlier is a sense of rupture between what I thought was happening and what I thought was going to be, what my family life looked like when my children were grown. And this disconnect between what we discovered happening, which led to a feeling of almost being dissociative, like wait, that happened and this was all rippling through and we didn't know. And now a process of working through that and healing, but has led to rupture in my core family structure. It's actually been a few things. One really hard to talk about publicly because it's not fully just my story, but two feeling as this sort of doctor midwife, role model person who people look up to as a mom and a midwife. And that means all these things about family structure and getting it all right. And then it's like actually this is this whole other thing happening.
And I feel like when I have shared it with a few people, like patients of mine or students of mine who have an adult child who's an alcoholic or a drug user or have gone through some trauma and they look at me and they're like, oh, your family must be all perfect. And then to tell the truth and watch people's shoulders drop and realize they're not alone. And that grief in its many forms can happen to so many of us. And I feel like so many people feel this sense of rupture, rupture of a dream or rupture of way of life. And you talk about rupture in your book. So talk to us about the rupture you had with your cancer diagnosis, how that rupture changed your life, how rupture showed up with your dad's illness. What does rupture mean to you?
Kris: Well, for me it is that moment where everything changes. It's the moment where you get kicked in the teeth. It's the moment where you thought it was one way and you realize it was a whole other and all of the emotions that accompany it, it's when rug gets pulled out from under you. It's when you have the miscarriage, you lose the job, your partner leaves, someone dies, you get sick. It's the moment your perception of how life is ruptures. And as you said at the top, it happens to each and every one of us, big and small. And I think we live in a grief, phobic, messy emotions of our society. So those are things that we don't talk about. That's why we're here today, to normalize it and of course to have a lot of compassion around it so that we can bring these things into the light and heal together.
And so for me, I've had many myself, my adopted father who raised me, who is the primary focus of many of the stories in this book. He's my chosen father. My biological father left when I was conceived. So that was an initial rupture. My diagnosis was a rupture. I thought my life is going to go one way. And it took a very different course, and there's been many wonderful things that have happened as a result. But the rupture remains when my chosen father was diagnosed with cancer and I then realized it was terminal. That's another big rupture. Whether I knew it or not at the time, all of these old wounds came up for healing. And I love one of the things that I talk about in the book, which is wisdom from my therapist. She said, when the grief train pulls into the station, it brings all the cars.
Aviva: Can I tell you, first of all, when I read that, I got such chills and I feel like I'm having that continual chills moment as we're talking. When the truth just lands in your body. Talk more about that grief train, pulling everything with it.
Kris: Yeah, it's a hard thing to hear. I was like, no, no. The different cars is the big emotions that accompany it. We don't think that we're going to feel rage or I didn't think that I'd feel deep shame. I didn't think that there were all these other very big emotions that were very painful that would come up. And certainly old traumas, for example, when I really made peace and faced the fact that my dad was dying, there was no way out of the situation. There was not a new supplement, a new doctor, a no protocol, a new trial. There we were at the end, and now it was time to change our course and pivot to a different behavior, which is end of life care. And when I came face-to-face with that, I was just like, oh my gosh, I don't know if I can survive this.
And not just because of that impending loss, which is the whole thing about anticipatory grief, but because it was bringing up the loss of my biological father as well, somehow in my little five-year-old self, which still is a part of me, was thinking my dad is abandoning me. Right? That's an old abandonment womb that came up for healing. It wasn't abandoning me. He was dying, which is a natural process, but all this stuff gets jumbled up inside in my experience. And so that saying that she so beautifully laid out for me was very helpful because it allowed me to say, this is normal and each one of these emotions are not emotions. I'm going to shame or blame. I'm going to welcome them in as parts of myself, just like I would welcoming in my dog. You know what I mean? I don't have children, but I'm going to welcome the parts of me back home for healing and say, sit with me.
Let me be curious about you. How can I help tend to this heartache you're experiencing? What's at the source of it? And I think that that's a lot of the emotional mental health fitness that we can start to deploy when all this stuff feels so big. One of the things that I've learned from my own experience in ruptures is sometimes we can get caught asking the question, why did this happen? And sometimes we'll get an answer to that question that can be helpful whether we like the answer or not. There might be some useful information there, but other times we can never know the answer. And we as humans get stuck ruminating in the why, which keeps us in the unchangeable past as opposed to what can I do now that I have this information? What can I do to heal the relationship or to improve my side of the street? I can't control another person. What can I do to support my mental health, my physical health? What is a stronger question? If you find yourself ruminating in the why of a rupture,
Aviva: What does it look like for you when you do hit those? Really I can't do it places before you have the breakthroughs. How does it show up in your body? How does your life change? How do your patterns change? How does your self-care change? Where do you go?
Kris: Well, when I struggle, I go to a lot of different places. But if I were to describe it overall is the sense of not being in alignment with myself, kind of being out of my skin, not feeling grounded or I'm behaving from my full self. And so in those places, I can do what so many of us do, right? I can move forward from anxiety as opposed to a sense of calm. And so I can start to see the signs when that's in my behavior, I can see my shortness. I can see a sense of I need to control things because I'm feeling out of control. And us humans, we do not like uncertainty. And so I might work harder, double down, be less patient, just be harder on other people and myself. And so those are just indicators to me that I need to stop, drop and roll and take a beat because I'm not going to make good decisions for my health and wellbeing and also my relationships from that place.
Aviva: You talked about anticipatory grief. You talk about it as the space between, for example, your dad's diagnosis and his death. What are some ways that anticipatory grief can show up? And how did you work with that?
Kris: I think first and foremost, I wasn't aware that this existed. I don't know if anybody else there has had this. Maybe you're hearing it for the first time. I didn't know that that was a thing.
Aviva: I think a lot of mothers know it.
Aviva: A lot of mothers, when we're tucking our children in at night, it's like a wave of anticipating a loss that could happen even if your child is perfectly healthy. It's sort of this existential gut drop, emotional, cracked, wide open sort of feeling that I think we get.
Kris: I can understand that, and I guess I've had that in other areas of my life. I don't think I was as aware of it though until this experience. And I remember a moment when I was talking to my dad, but I wasn't really hearing what he was saying. I was just thinking about a time when he wouldn't be there. But in the moment, I was fully present with him and we were having potentially a lovely conversation, though I have no idea, I was totally checked out. So I also felt not far after that moment, guilty that I thought that guilty that I wasn't present. And even to some extent though, I don't believe this, I let my mind go to places like, gosh, if I get stuck in this, am I going to actually manifest this into our lives? Can I somehow change the course of destiny just by having these thoughts?
I don't believe that. But my point is that our brains go to very interesting places when we're stressed out. And so all I did, and all I will continue to do with this emotion is just recognize it and say, oh, this is what this is, and here are some of the tools that I can use to bring myself back to this present moment. And part of that is allowing yourself to feel your feelings too and not just say, oh, in the present moment everything's fine. To your beautiful point, there may be some tears that need to happen, whatever it is that you need to express. But just seeing where you are, allowing yourself to have your feelings and then guiding yourself back to the here and now, I think are probably the best tools any of us can develop.
Aviva: I love that. And I think what you were talking about is a slightly different phenomenon, which I think is combined, right? It's that mom tucking her child in and it's that feeling like, I love you so much that my universe is just expanded. And if you ever weren't in it, I don't know how I'd cope, but it's more like a momentary, fleeting emotion where what I hear you saying is that it's almost like dissociated to the future. So you're actually missing what's happening in the present. You kind of go staticky in the present.
Kris: Well, what I have learned also is that grief happens before the loss.
Aviva: Talk more about that.
Kris: So that's really the essence of anticipatory grief. I was in that moment I was with my dad, there wasn't a loss, although I was noticing loss because I'm seeing him deteriorate in front of me. And seeing the deterioration makes me realize that this is coming, whether I'm conscious of it or not, whether the doctors say it's happening or not. And so the fact that it happens before the actual absence of the person is the new awareness for me and the new awareness for many of us, and again, just to come back to this idea that once we become a little more emotionally literate, understanding our emotions and how they manifest in our lives and our relationships and our bodies, I think the better we are to attending to them. I remember Aviva when I was newly diagnosed and I knew nothing about what happened under the hood.
I was like, I don't know about my organs. That's not my problem. My problem is getting the next job and doing this, that and the other thing, and building my life. My body does all the rest. That's what you do. That's what I do. This is our agreement. Now, I will say that was not the best approach to life, but how many of us, few of us go to medical school, you've gone to, right? And few of us take the time to educate ourselves about how our bodies work. We're not taught this in school. It has to be some sort of extracurricular inspiration that we have, curiosity that we have, or it happens when we get sick. But it's the same premise. It's like it's helpful for me to know how my digestion works so that I can feel better. It's the same thing with our emotions.
Aviva: I think that that anticipatory grief is strangely a gift. I was talking with someone recently about how they had a family member who was quite unwell and they were actually as happens with many people. And I think there's a lot of guilt and shame around this. When someone is doing the intense work of caretaking an unwell, much older family member, there can actually be a sense of relief when the person's gone because they're not uncomfortable. The person who was suffering, but also the family is not as exhausted and not in that anticipatory grief can be very exhausting. I think there's something about that anticipatory grief, but also sometimes even challenging long passings that do some of the work of on a deeper unconscious level, getting us ready for the passing. So when it happens, it's not less painful, but it's less shocking, I think. Does that resonate with you?
Kris: 100%. I can only speak to my own experiences, but I had four and a half years of daily connection. And so though it didn't make it less painful, I was more and more prepared, especially as I had the blessing to have a relationship with my dad where we actually talked about dying, which was very profound and healing in many ways for both of us. But if it was a sudden loss, it would be a very different type of grief, a complicated grief, more of a traumatic grief. And so you're absolutely right about all of the different emotions and experiences that you touched on from my perspective. And I think that's where a lot of the work of compassion towards ourselves and grace comes in because you may feel a sense of relief and then also feel guilty that you're feeling that sense of relief. So you have quite a playground to work with inside of yourself because all of these different things come up.
Aviva: Death is so hidden in our culture as is birth. And as you mentioned, there can be that guilt, there can be shame, there can be complex relationships that people are also resolving. You had the gift of a beautiful relationship with your dad, but for some people, loss is very confusing. And one of the misconceptions that we have in our culture, as I mentioned earlier, it was actually in the D ss m, I think it was the three or four, which is the diagnostics statistics manual, which is what physicians like myself, psychiatrists, family, doctors, interests, et cetera, used to diagnose mental health challenges and diseases. And until just the last few years, if somebody lost a loved one, if you lost your spouse and you grieved for three months, that was considered medically normal grieving beyond three months thinking you heard the person or saw the person or picking up a phone to call the person when they're not there, or feeling sad or not wanting to get out of bed or losing weight or gaining weight or any of the somatic things that happened. You were now diagnosed as having depression. And fortunately this has changed, I think they say a year now. So there's still kind of a timeline on it. And sometimes people do have depression and they do need a different kind of help. But you talk about this, that grief doesn't have a timeline, and you talk about the difference between getting over it and getting through it. Can you talk about some of the process that you went through and how this trajectory has been for
Kris: You? I think a lot of this came from being in therapy for 30 years and also reading a lot of brief books and doing a lot of studying and researching on grief to write my book, which helped me enormously as the author first and foremost, I think that what I have seen inside the grief community is it can feel like people don't get it. It's almost like being inside the cancer community sometimes, where if you're in the club, you get it in a way that people outside of the club, and I have a chapter in the book called Awkward times, awkward People, and it's some of the stuff that we say unintentionally or we hear that, oh, I always believe people come from a good place. We just don't always have the tools that we need at the time. But in the journey that I've been on, I think that that has also been something that has helped me normalize the emotion, which is you don't get over it, you move through it.
Maybe in some scenarios you heal your heart fully. My heart will not heal fully from this loss. My heart will not heal fully from the loss of my biological father. It will not. However, around that wound, there's new life that grows. There's new joys that are emerging and happening that I continue to nurture and water and feed, and so my life moves forward, but I don't move on. And to some people that can feel like, whoa, I don't like that. I want a bow at the end of the story, I want a perfect happy ending. But I don't think that that's as realistic. And we live in a very black and white world, and I think that this process has taught me to embrace more of the magnificent gray, as I like to call it. There's both, and I can be healthy and I have stage four cancer. I can be happy and I can be a person who struggles with anxiety. I can be successful and unsuccessful in many, many ways. It's that both. And that's more true to a three-dimensional life. And I think it's the same thing with moving on versus through, if that makes any sense.
Aviva: It does. Thank you for sharing that. I use this sort of mnemonic that I heard that I mentioned earlier in my life when I'm struggling with something, whether there's self-blame or whether it feels like it's always going to be this way when you're in grief or even when you have a cold, you can feel like, oh, it's always going to be this way. Maybe it's always been this way and I don't remember it. I'm never going to feel better. And somewhere along the line of my adult life, I learned the three P's that I mentioned earlier, the permanence, pervasiveness, and personalization. So for anyone listening, if this is helpful, it's been very helpful for me. But that the worst of the feelings aren't permanent, that pervasiveness, it's not all of your life. This is a piece of it and it feels like it's filling up all of your life, but it's a piece of it. And then the personalization is back to the self-compassion because so often when something is happening in one of our lives, we think that we did something wrong or there's something we could have done better. You mentioned people who are maybe grief illiterate. What are some of the things that people say that you just are like, Ooh, let's get people to stop saying that. And some of the things that would be more helpful, you think?
Kris: I list a bunch of these examples in the book, and many of them have been things that somebody has shared with me at an event or something like that when I talk about my experience. And then somebody will come up to me at a book signing and say, this is what I heard. And I still hold those words in my heart and they were so hurtful, but I didn't know how to respond to them. And again, if you've ever said any of these things, let yourself off the hook. We do what we can with what we have until we have more and then we do better. And so that's a hope. So some things that I have heard in my own life are, why are you so sad? It's only a dog. And so inside my inner voice says, but my dog is my child.
Or, oh, you have stage four cancer. How long do you have to live? It's kind of slowing down at a car crash to see if you can see a femur, right? He's like, don't do that. You're usually rubbernecking, right? Don't do that with somebody else's grief and trauma. Oh, you had a miscarriage. You're young, you'll have other children. I wanted this child. I wanted this baby. There's other fish in the seat. I don't want fish. I want my partner, I want my person. So the through line here, with the exception of the cancer question, which comes from morbid curiosity, is you're trying to connect and you don't know what to say. And when we don't know what to say, and we're kind of over our skis a little bit, sometimes we say weird things. And so what I have come to learn is just familiarize ourselves with some of the doss and the don'ts.
But also people often will then say, well, what do you say? Right? And there's a couple of things that I suggest here, but let's start with the meta meta, which is there's nothing you can say to make it better to fix it, and it's not your job. And the more you think it's your job, the more likelihood that you're going to mess up. This is not your job. Your job is to just be present, to be a listener. And one of the things that I love was, it's still hard for me, but I really try to take my own advice, is courageous acknowledgement, like addressing the elephant in the room.
Aviva: Thank you for saying that too. I've had so many women who have come to me through my work as a midwife and a physician who had a pregnancy loss. And the un-acknowledgement by friends and family also felt like such an affront, such an invisibility. I've had people say, I wish somebody said the wrong thing or just said anything and acknowledged that this just happened in my life.
Kris: And look, we can see where it comes from, but there in good intentions gone wrong basically. And so that courageous acknowledgement of saying, I'm so sorry, even saying, I don't know what to say, but I love you so much and I'm so sorry and I am here. And then taking it one step further, which is, I don't know if you've ever done this, but I have done this so many times in my life, Aviva, of reaching out and saying, let me know if you need something.
Aviva: Instead of just doing the thing, it's like asking a new mother, what can I do to help you? And you're like, just forget it. Nothing.
Kris: I dunno. Don't put another decision on my life.
Aviva: Yeah, exactly. So what are some of the things that you do to not ask that question but to be of service?
Kris: For me, if the person is close proximity, it could be as simple as I'm headed to the store today. I'd love to pick up anything that's on your list,
Aviva: A very specific, here's what I can do for you. And granular.
Kris: Yeah, you have been the extreme caregiver at the bedside of your person. I bet it would feel great to take a shower, wash your hair, get your nails done, get out of the house. Can I come and sit with your person for a bit? Can I walk the dogs? Can I take your kids to the playground or the movies to see the new Barbie? Something that gives the person a time to refuel. Because I think as caregivers, and this isn't just for people who are going through loss, but so many of us, and I'm sure so many people who listen to you are caregivers in some way, it's so easy to be the frog in the boiling water. You don't even know that you're cooking. You're just so deep in it. And I find it's those little moments of self-care that start to replenish the nervous system, fuel the tank, allow me to get back into the game, make better decisions, connect.
Aviva: Along with grief not being acknowledged in our culture. And I think this is particularly true for women. We are not necessarily great at asking for or even taking help, and the act of giving is healing for the giver. The act of receiving just receiving is sometimes so softening and such a relief and to feel held and supported when you're holding, supporting someone else can just be such an ease of burden.
Kris: Absolutely. And I want to go a little further there because I think this is so powerful and it's something that I think you're absolutely spot on about. It's even harder for women. I don't know why, but I will say that with the receiving piece, it can be interesting to investigate your resistance to receiving, because for me specifically, it is connected to trauma and wounds. So I equate receiving with, if I don't receive, there's nothing you can take from me. I can give, and that's a position of power and that's a position of protection. But if I receive, you can take something from me, whether it's my peace of mind, my sense of self, you can hold something over me. That's the unconscious place, that's the old wound. That's the old baggage that I will go to if I'm not aware. And so if I feel some resistance around receiving, is that going to be it all the time? No, but it's helpful to be curious and I can say, oh, this has to do with that. This has nothing to do with this present moment and this person in my life who by the way feels really good to give a gift. So you not receiving is actually you not strengthening a relationship. It feels so good for the person.
Aviva: It's funny when I think back on my birth, because this is so relevant to postpartum as well, and when I think back to each of my four kids' births, what comes up for me most is very specifically the people who showed up. I mean, I have this one image I have of my third baby and a local community friend, and her partner showed up just to take my kids to the park. And the kids came back with, I think they're called rocket pops. They're like Those ice pops that are red, white, and blue. And the kids' lips were blue, and our friends knew we were kind of natural and how we ate, and they were a little bit apologetic. And I was like, are you kidding? Thank you. Just the act of being able to receive, because for me, receiving is about somehow my story as a child was I had to do it and show up and not having the capacity to do it all or do more was somehow an inadequacy.
So I have this idea that I'm supposed to do it all and do it all for myself in this very pioneer woman fashion. And to be able to open up and accept that gift of help has been so nourishing for me. So one of the things that I know happens for so many of us is this kind of catch 22 because in a time of crisis or loss or before loss, when you're in that caregiver role of someone who's passing or you're in the breakup phase or whatever it is, taking care of our bodies and minds is more important than ever, but it's also usually the first thing that goes by the wayside. How do you manage that? Just talk about self-care during a time of crisis. How do we remember to do it? What things we can do?
Kris: Absolutely. I mean, this is one of my favorite topics in my community. I talk about what I call the five pillars of wellness in there about being mindful about what you're eating, drinking, thinking, and how you're resting and renewing. The key word there is mindful not perfect. And so all of these pillars rest on a foundation of stress reduction. And so one of the things that we know to be true is there's no greater time of stress than when you're going through life-changing circumstances, whatever your rupture is. And so I know for myself, first and foremost, it's very important to lower my standards during those times and to lower the bar on what I think is good enough.
Aviva: Oh, talk more about this, please.
Kris: I think this is kind of the way I should operate all the time, by the way.
But I think especially in our wellness community, when I see the various trends and fads roll in like the clouds du jour, and I see the pressure that the people in my community will put on themselves to reach certain standards that actually have to do with whatever trend or fad du jour, I think it's so counterproductive because if we think about lifestyle medicine, it's about these consistent habits that we practice more often than not that lead to better wellbeing. And I think one of the things that I believe is that the body is very forgiving. It's not asking you to hack it, it's just not, it's asking you to honor it.
Aviva: I really don't use the term biohacking in my work. It feels invasive, aggressive, and computer driven, not human driven.
Kris: I think it's a marketing tool, and ultimately it'll lead you into a sales funnel.
That too, we have the privilege of knowing how the sausage is made. So, but when we look at the cultures around the world that have the greatest longevity, nobody's interested in biohacking, they're gardening and they're eating their fruits and vegetables, and they're spending time with their families and they're moving more often than not. And throughout the day, they're moving, moving, moving, and then they're taking breaks to rest and so forth. It's like this is very practical, ancient wisdom, but somehow we've gotten way over our skis. So let's break it down to the simplest things. So when I'm going through a period where I just feel crunched or out of sorts, or I'm not feeling in my body happy, well, whatever it is, because I'm going through a period of overwhelm, grief, whatever, I tend to be the person that doesn't have much of an appetite. When those things happen, somebody else may have a very big appetite. So I have to say to myself, what you can do that takes very little time is you can make a really healthy packed smoothie with the good fats and the phytochemicals and the fiber, and that's all you can do. You are doing it, girl, right? So that's one thing that I will do is make sure I'm having my smoothies, make sure I'm drinking water right? There's a whole other laundry list of other self-care tips that we can talk about until the cows come home. But am I hydrated because that's going to help with my energy, that's going to help with my mental clarity that's going to help my digestion, which is going to help my immune system.
Aviva: We're talking really practical small habits, 101 kind of.
Kris: Total 101 stuff. And honestly, I think if more of us stayed in the 101 consistently, we would have a very different healthcare situation in our society.
Aviva: This should be a brand, the 101?
Kris: Yeah. Okay. We'll start it.
Aviva: The 101. Yeah. So you mentioned one thing that you did, and of course you and I both know that as entrepreneurs we have the privilege of dialing up and dialing down our work, but also as entrepreneurs, there's no medical leave. If we leave, things can take a significant hit financially too. So I have two questions for you. One is, how did you go about making that decision and the shift for yourself that you were going to weather the discomfort of what happened? Or was it just something that just you had to do? And for people who are not in the position where they have the opportunity and ability to turn the faucet up or down on the amount of work they're doing and still keep kind of a baseline hum, but they work at a job, but they really just feel like the weight is so great, they can't even kick the covers off in the morning and they do need to rest. How do you encourage and support people to do that when they just feel like they're so tired from the grief they can't get up, but they have a job to show up for?
Kris: Yeah, what came to me as you were talking is our performance dips when we're in times of stress and strain. And so whether we're aware of it or not, our performance dips, and I, as somebody who has a team, and I employ a lot of people, I so prefer when somebody comes to me with that radical candor and saying, Hey, I need you to know what's going on in my life right now, and I could really use this. Here's how I'm going to make sure that my tasks are covered. This person already volunteered to step up. Here's some other things that I can do so that I can take some time off next week to be with my person at the doctor's office, whatever it is. But I all day long am available for honest conversations, especially with someone who's like, this is what's going on.
Here are some things that I can put in place to cover what I need to be doing. What we don't want to do is just kind of say, bad shit's going down. Dump it in your boss's lap and have them figure it out, because that's not always possible. So that's just one scenario. I think that if you just approach it from how can I be more honest with the people in my life and start to strategize some support that could allow me to have some more space? And of course it's uncomfortable to ask for help, which is one of the reasons why we touched on that earlier. And we touched on our resistance to receiving because the thing is that something's got to give, or your body will.
Aviva: So is that what you did? Did you lean into your team and say, I need more help, or did you decide to dial some things back for a little bit?
Kris: I had to do both. So the first scenario was like, you're right, we have the privilege of running our own businesses, but we also have the responsibility of paychecks. And so for me, I first said, I'm going to need to take a step back and here's the kind of support I'm going to need. And that was phase one. And then phase two was I actually have to shrink the size of my business for a bit. So that meant layoffs, and that meant deciding that a certain amount of my income would be lost because I prioritized what was more important to me at the time. And so there was consequences for that. But it was what I could handle emotionally. It was what I could handle physically, and it was my intention to be present for somebody who I love very much. And so I think it boils down to getting radically clear with yourself about what you want and how you want to show up. You have one life.
Aviva: I know for me, it's a life practice, to be honest with myself about what I can actually accomplish in a day, on a good day. I have a Panda Planner that I started using. I have no financial relationship to Panda. My bestie got me into using pandas, and I don't use it consistently, but when I do have an overwhelming day or week, and it's usually a Monday, I don't know how I'm going to fit all this in. I sit and write down in my planner what's on my docket for that day, and I'll look at it and go, well, of course you feel overwhelmed. No human could actually do all that in one day of Eva, not even you, and what you think you can get done. And so then I'll take that day and I'll stretch it out over three days and I'm like, okay, that's normal. That's human, that's breathable. And when we're in grief or loss or major transition, it's even more important to, I think be really honest with what we have the capacity for. And I love what you said, it's like lower the bar a little bit, expect less of yourself.
Kris: Yeah. I'll end that by saying, I've also come to realize that when one rupture happens or one loss happens, one death happens. And this can be a metaphoric death. It could be the death of a chapter. It often has a domino effect. And so there were things in my life that actually needed to change that had been crying out for change for quite some time, and including changes that needed to happen in my business. So it was a lot to handle all at once, but it was a long time coming.
Aviva: I think a lot of people had that experience in Covid, right? We're faced with this existential crisis, and it makes you evaluate what is and what isn't important, what is and what isn't working. As you said, you have this one life, so how are you going to live it? And sometimes these moments just shine that light on. It's a big broad light that gets shown.
Kris: So true.
Aviva: You wrote something so profound in your book. You said losing your dad was a rupture. So all-encompassing that I couldn't pick up the pieces and move forward with business as usual. The piece is no longer fit. So what are some of the key ways that you changed your life in the aftermath of your dad's passing and that acknowledgement and deeper understanding of rupture?
Kris: Well, I'd say that each of the chapters does address a different emotion or an experience that you may have. But one of the things that I talk a lot about is that these ruptures can give you a certain type of perspective. Again, they're not blessings and gifts. There's blessings that you can find in them. And for me, one of my dad's bits of wisdom, and I weave a bunch of his wisdom throughout the book was Make your golden years now and what does that really look like? And so that has been something that has really stuck with me. And towards the end, when he was on morphine for his pain, he would say, Hey, love, make sure to stop and smell the lizards. And it was very funny because he was mixing his metaphors. I was like, I think you mean rose's dad. But yes, I hear you.
I want to stop and smell the lizards. And I think that's probably the biggest bit of wisdom I can leave you and your audience with, which is what does it look like to make your life golden now, not down the road when you're retired and you have all your ducks in a row and you've got all of the savings and everybody's raised and grown and changing the world and all of these things that are wonderful dreams. But now because life can change in an instant, and my hope is that we show up for our lives in small consistent ways every single day so that we can make as many memories as possible while we still have the opportunity and privilege to.
Aviva: Make those memories. I love that. Kris, thank you so much for all that you are bringing all of us such beautiful wisdom to share. So thank you. Thank you. Thanks for having me on your beautiful show. It's so wonderful to be in your company. It's really beautiful to be here with you too. And we'll put everything in the show notes of where to find you, where to find this wonderful book. I really want to acknowledge to your sense of humor in the title. So there was that just beautiful irreverence. This is such a powerful book, and it made me laugh just looking at the title. So thank you for that too. You're welcome. Thank you, honey. Thank you for joining us, everybody.