Ep #224: The Power of Investing in Yourself: A Widows Unfiltered Interview with Alexis Cuthbert

The Widowed Mom Podcast Krista St-Germain | The Power of Investing in Yourself: A Widows Unfiltered Interview with Alexis Cuthbert

I love watching the clients who come into Mom Goes On not knowing what to expect… only to do the work, blow their own minds, and land in a totally different place than they initially thought was possible.

My client, Alexis Cuthbert, is one of those people.

Join us today to hear Alexis’s journey of navigating grief and widowhood, and the revelations that have transformed her life since being a part of Mom Goes On.


Listen to the Full Episode:


Mementos & Memories is a three-day online event that will help you deal with your person’s stuff, happening from September 18th to the 20th 2023. Whether your person died recently or it’s been years and there’s stuff you’re holding on to that you’re struggling with, join me. Click here to grab your free spot now.


If you want to create a future you can truly get excited about even after the loss of your spouse, I invite you to apply for Mom Goes On.


What You’ll Learn from this Episode:

  • How Alexis’s formal training as a palliative care nurse colored her experience of grief.
  • What Alexis wishes she had known about grief before her husband’s passing.
  • The biggest revelations and transformations that happened for Alexis when she joined Mom Goes On.


Featured on the Show:

  • Leave me a review in Apple Podcasts.
  • Interested in small-group coaching? Join us in Mom Goes On. Click here for details and next steps.
  • Join my free Facebook group, The Widowed Mom Podcast Community.
  • Follow me on Instagram!
  • If you are a Life Coach School certified coach, I’m working on an Advanced Certification in Grief and Post-Traumatic Growth Coaching just for you. If this sounds like something you would love, email us to let us know you want in on the interest list to be notified when it launches!
  • I send out several pick-me-up emails each week including announcements and details for free live coaching sessions. Enter your email in the pop-up on my home page to sign up.
  • Linda Shanti McCabe: Website | The Art of Grief
  • The Sound of Music soundtrack
  • The widows in my coaching program shared their advice and encouragement for new widows in this new book, Dear New Widow. Get your copy here!


Full Episode Transcript:

Welcome to The Widowed Mom Podcast, episode 224, Widows Unfiltered: An Interview with Alexis Cuthbert.

Welcome to The Widowed Mom Podcast, the only podcast that offers a proven process to help you work through your grief, to grow, evolve, and create a future you can truly look forward to. Here’s your host, Master Certified life coach, grief expert, widow, and mom, Krista St-Germain.

Hey there, welcome to another episode of the podcast. I’ve got a good one for you today but before we jump in I want to make sure you know and have actually registered for our Mementos and Memories online event that is coming up. It starts September 18th, which will be here before you know it. So here is the thing, it’s a free event that I created for widows who don’t really look forward to dealing with whatever is left to deal with in terms of their person’s stuff.

Maybe you are really early in grief, you are nowhere near wanting to deal with your person’s stuff. Maybe you’ve actually dealt with a lot of it already, but there’s some stuff left and you’re not particularly looking forward to it. Maybe when you think about it, you feel a little overwhelmed or you worry about what other people are going to think or you worry that you might make some decisions that you regret. This is also normal when it comes to dealing with our person’s stuff but also it doesn’t have to be as hard as our brain wants to make it.

So I created a three day online event. This is not going to be hard to do, you all, this is going to be easy. I’m going to teach live for three days for 30 minutes each, going to record it all. We have worksheets for you. It’s very tangible, very doable, good for busy schedules. You don’t even need to be there live. But it’s going to help make dealing with your person’s stuff easier when the time comes and you’re ready for whatever is next for you.

So go to coachingwithkrista.com/mementosandmemories, and that’s spelled out coachingwithkrista.com/mementosandmemories. You can register for the free version. If you want to treat yourself to the VIP version, we’ve created a whole lovely package for you, totally optional. Do the free version, the VIP version, whatever, but just do it. Don’t miss it because it’s going to be really good. I’ve never done this one before and I’m excited, all of the content is created.

We’re going to have a little popup Facebook group where we can get to know each other better. You can ask questions. I can help you out. I just want to make your experience of dealing with their stuff less awful, doesn’t need to be as awful as your brain wants to make it. So go register coachingwithkrista.com/mementosandmemories. We start September 18th, 2023, depending on when you’re listening to this. It could be much, much later than that, but go register today.

Also, today’s interview is with one of my favorite clients. I love all my clients, but I really think you’re going to enjoy listening to Alexis and learning from her. It’s been really fun to watch her progress through the program. She’s now finishing up, she did her initial six months and then she stayed on for six months of Master’s and then she’s about to finish that up as well.

And the reason it’s fun to watch people like Alexis is because they kind of come in not really knowing what to expect, do the work, stay engaged, ask questions, get coached. And then blow their own minds and wind up in a totally different place than they expected themselves to be in which is a beautiful thing. So I want you to hear all about it from Alexis. I’m going to shut up and we’re going to let the interview start so you can learn from Alexis Cuthbert. I hope you enjoy.

Krista: Welcome, Alexis, to the podcast. I’m excited to have you.

Alexis: Well, thank you so much. It is truly an honor to be here with you.

Krista: I’m glad. It’s fun for me when I do these podcast interviews for a lot of reasons, but one is because I get to kind of step back and I get to remember what I’ve seen someone go through in terms of their journey within the program and step back and appreciate the transformation. And for you, it just feels really vivid to me. So I’m excited to share you with my listeners. So, let’s have you start and just tell people a little bit about your background. Where did you grow up? All the things.

Alexis: Well, I grew up on a farm just outside of the city that I live in now and I live in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, which is north of North Dakota. And I was the youngest in my family. And grew up on a farm, of course, farm life. And had many different chapters of my life up to where I am today, had many different relationships and I went to nursing school and became a registered psychiatric nurse. And then I was a musician for quite a few years, those all kind of overlap.

I was involved in some businesses and yeah, and then got to where I met my husband that has passed away. And I had a son prior to that. And so that’s when I met my husband was I was older in life, I was already 41 when I met him.

Krista: And how did you meet?

Alexis: We met online, that was kind of the fun part. It was back then kind of not as common as it is now. It was 15 years ago and I had never done it really before. And so I had someone dare me at work. I worked a lot of night shifts and we talk about strange things during night shifts. And they had dared me to kind of go online and I did. And I saw him and met him the very first day that I was online. And we talked the second day and we met in person the third day and the fourth day we took down our profiles.

We were together every day for the next 15 years. Well, I shouldn’t say 15. We were together for 13 years. It’s been 15 years since then.

Krista: Okay. What was he like? What was the attraction? And what did you love about him?

Alexis: He was my prince charming. He was just the perfect match for me and we knew right away which was good for us. I mean, we were in our 40s and 50s already, and so to us, it sort of made sense. We know what we didn’t want because we’d lived that already. And it was a perfect match for us. But it took a little time for the rest of the family to catch up. We actually married in eight months, so that was fast. He had two older daughters and I think that was sudden for them, why should they trust this person? But that, of course, has changed, and we have a very close relationship now.

But it just felt so perfectly right and we had so much in common. And he was everything that I aspired to, the calm, the wise, the practical. And I had the energy to carry out whatever his research was and we were a good team together. So very kind and patient and loving man. My son, when I met Don was 11 years old and my son was diagnosed with autism. And so when I met him, it was not just me he was marrying, he was marrying a package deal. And he immediately took to him and it was the other way as well.

My son didn’t always kind of gravitate towards people and so that was our third date or whatever it was, third day that we knew each other was well, you might as well meet my son because if he doesn’t like you, we’re not going to get very far. And my son, in his unusual autistic ways, smelled him, he smelled him and then he took his cell phone and he smelled his cell phone and he said, “Kind of does smell like Don”, he says. And that was it, he sat on his lap and they were bonded and it was good.

Krista: And he just decided Don smelled good.

Alexis: Don smelled good and trustworthy and I thought, well, I’ve got to go with that.

Krista: Oh my goodness. Okay, so then eight months later you get married? 

Alexis: Yes. We got married in Maui in Hawaii and it was just a fairytale. And everything aside from his daughters, my stepdaughters at that point needing a little time to get used to it, our life actually for the rest of our time was just a fairytale. We were both sort of semi-retired. We had the time, we had the money. And then the miracle of all miracles we had a baby. I was 43 years old, he was 52 and we had a little girl and it was just unbelievable. Who knew this was going to be the chapter of my life? And she was and continues to be the joy of our lives. 

Krista: So that was a surprise?

Alexis: Well, I mean we weren’t against it, but at that age, you just don’t expect it to happen but yeah, it did and was wonderful, yeah. And so our life, like I said, was a lot of travel and raising this beautiful child and time and money and it was just the fairytale. And I guess we both expected that that was going to be, we would ride that out into old age together. And so when he passed he was 64, I was 55. And it was like, wow, that’s a hard stop. What am I supposed to do now? Yeah, that’s where we got to.

Krista: Yeah. Can you talk a little bit about how that all came to be, how he passed?

Alexis: Yeah. Well, he was healthy, seemed to be the healthiest of his family until he died. It sort of seemed strange that he didn’t really have a whole lot of health issues. And then he was, in 2019 he started to become ill and eventually he was diagnosed with Stage 4 prostate cancer, which had metastasized to his lymph and his bones and his bladder. And so then we didn’t really know how much time we had. And he loved Australia and we had been there already and we decided we’re going to take another trip.

So our daughter who was, what would she have been? I think 10 at the time, and he and I went to Australia for three weeks. And then we came back and it was 2020 and COVID started. And so my experience of COVID was layered with cancer and taking care of him. And I don’t have the same experience that most people had. We were at home like everybody was, but I took care of him at home. My background as a psychiatric nurse was that a good part of that was as a palliative care nurse. And so I knew how to take care of him.

I had been retired from that kind of work for, well, the whole time that our daughter had been around, so, 10/11 years already but he didn’t want to go into the hospital. I knew I could do it at home and it was COVID, you couldn’t really go anyway. So if I had sent him somewhere we’d have never seen him again. So I took care of him at home and the first year wasn’t too bad. But the second year he got really quite sick and then the last six months he was not himself, he was a different person altogether.

And then the stress of trying to take care of him 24 hours a day, compounded with my daughter, our daughter being at that point saying, “I don’t even know who this person is anymore. Why don’t you get him out of the house?” There was too much stress for her, and my son having autism, not knowing how to process all the stress. It was just every moment was like I’m going to explode. But I know there’s going to be an end to this. I just have to keep going one minute at a time, one day at a time.

And then the last, in June I had him in the hospital quickly just to check some things out. And they said, “He’s not going to live more than a few days.” And I thought, well, okay, we’ll see. And I took him back home and he didn’t die for three more months. It was September the 25th. So every day was exhausting but I survived. That was the whole part that now I can look back at with some sort of victory because at the moment, boy, that was just how am I going to get through this?

And watching him disappear in front of our eyes. He was never a big man, but he was 160 pounds or something at his best, at his usual. And he was under, he was 90 something when he died, he literally was just bones. So there’s a lot of trauma that one has to work through with that, but thanks to you and Mom Goes On I have gotten through a lot of that to a point where I can function.

Krista: Well, I mean, yes, we provide the tools. Thanks to you, you’re the one that has shown up for yourself and done the work for sure.

Alexis: I have always appreciated and liked self-development, sort of courses and whatnot. So when this came along it was about nine months later, I thought, yeah, it does sound a little bit too good to be true, but let’s see. Anything is better than how I’m feeling. So at that point it was just a matter of, well, I was functioning nine months after he died but it was just, how would you put it? The getting through, there was no joy, there was no fun.

And I looked forward and said, “I’m 55, man, my parents are in their 90s. I could go another 30 years. How do we get through this?” So that’s why I started with you is because I thought, well, maybe there’s some hope there to change that.

Krista: Yeah. What was your experience of grief like up until that point? I mean obviously between when he died in September?

Alexis: Yeah. It was not what I expected. As a palliative care nurse and sort of strangely being interested in grief and death throughout my life, witnessing it close with all of my patients. I kind of thought it was a lot of a mental game that you would get over it and then you would sort of find a new life. And I didn’t really want to get over it, but I thought, well, that’s what it’s going to be. So when he died, I was shocked that it was so physical. There is so much of it that is, the grief doesn’t really reside in your head, it resides in your tissues, in your body.

And there was so much exhaustion and tiredness. I mean, that sort of seems obvious probably to some people, but you physically just ache and that was a surprise to me. And then the darkness, I’ve always had a very strong faith. And so I expected I would lean onto that and it would be fine. Eventually I would get through it. I discovered, first of all, that you don’t get through it. You take it with you into whatever you’re doing. So that was one thing I learned.

And then the darkness was enveloping in a way that I thought, where is all this faith, this spirituality that I had before? I just felt like I was in a black hole and it took about six weeks at least before I kind of lifted a little bit from that, it shifted. I remember laying on the couch at one point with my daughter, my young daughter and watching a television show and when it was finished, saying, “Hey, for the first time since dad died, I feel like I was away from those thoughts for a second.”

I actually enjoyed a moment in that show, and I remember her saying, “That’s the first time?” And I said, “Yeah, it’s been six weeks of thinking about it non-stop.” And that also happened in the morning, I would wake-up in the morning and have to remember that he died all over again, oh man, that was hard. Six weeks of that. You’d wake up and you have those morning thoughts where you say, “Okay, the sun is shining. It’s Tuesday and oh, yeah he’s died.” Wow, that was painful every day.

So at six weeks, a little bit more than that I started to wake-up and realize, okay, you’re a widow right away. And I thought, well, most people might think that’s not the greatest thought to think, but I didn’t have to go through that pain of him dying every morning. So that was the shift from the very beginning. And then over time, I would say at about the six month mark I started to think more clearly. I think I operated on autopilot for a lot of the first six months after I got out of that really dark period. Three months after he died was exactly Christmas Day, from September 25th to December 25th.

And Christmas sort of just came off like usual. And then I realized my brain was only half there because I would do things like bake the cookies that I’d made 100,000 times before and miss ingredients. And I was living in the widow fog and I didn’t really know it. From the outside people thought I was doing fine but I still wasn’t even thinking clearly. So at about six months I got to where I was thinking more clearly.

And that’s when I started listening more to your podcasts and actually it wasn’t the podcast, it was the Facebook Lives, that’s where I first heard it. And the Facebook group had been a source of recognizing that you’re not alone, I guess that there’s many others out there. And that was comforting in the beginning. But then eventually it got to where I wanted to do more than just sit in the misery of it all. And so that’s why I decided, let’s see what this Mom Goes On program actually is.

Krista: I’m so curious to know too, how did, thinking back to being a palliative care nurse and what did your or how did, if it did, your formal training and your on the job training prepare you or maybe leave you unprepared for what grief was actually like for you? I know you said you were surprised by the darkness and you were surprised by the physicality of it. Were you kind of thinking it was supposed to be five stages, what were you expecting it to be?

Alexis: Yeah, I think definitely I was taught that even directly in training, which had been of course many years before. But that grief was a process and that you start it, you go through the five steps, you get to where you accept it and then you move on. And I had treated those around me that were grieving that way, kind of with all the platitudes of, well, at least you know they’re in a better place, at least, all of that.

And then when you’re on that side of it, you feel as though you are supporting the person. You feel as though you’re saying something that is helpful because you know that person’s going to survive and move on. But when it’s you, wow, what a totally different experience. You start to hear all the things you said before. And I just want to go back and apologize to everybody I ever said that stuff to. And yet now being on this side, I do recognize that those that are saying it to me, do mean it in a spirit of caring.

But it doesn’t end, there isn’t five steps, it’s not linear. Grief is something that is now a part of who I am. And I think the definition of grief before was more about just the awful sadness, that’s kind of how you would sum it up as a person who hadn’t experienced it. When I was the palliative care nurse I was seeing families go through their grief and saying, “You’re sad now but it’ll be less sad later.” This is my thought process, not that I actually said that out loud.

And then now being that person, I recognize, no, this is never going to go away. That is now a part of who I am but it’s not only the sadness, there’s so much to grief. Grief is a word that encompasses a whole bunch of emotions that is the missing of that person and the loss of that in your life the way it was, because it does carry on, but it carries on in a different way. Don is always a part of my life and always will be. He’s not a part of my life in the way he was when he was physically here. So I think I was as ignorant of it as anybody is, that hasn’t gone through it.

Krista: Yeah. If you could go back, I always like to hear what people say to this question. If you could go back and you could give yourself information, maybe it was as you were caring for Don, or maybe it was right after he died or Christmas. What would you tell yourself?

Alexis: Well, I would tell myself that first of all, how you’re feeling is not a problem. This is what grief is. I was the kind of person who wanted to fix it. How are you feeling? What do I have to do to change that if you don’t like that? And so obviously, as I said, I would have told myself that this physical grief is normal and that there’s no rush. That this is just going to happen on its own time. And I was an impatient person who judged myself and well, you’re still here, you’ve got to move on. There is no moving on, there’s moving forward, but there’s really not any moving on.

So I think I would have given myself more grace, if I could talk to that early grieving Alexis, I would have said, “How you’re feeling is perfectly okay, and if it’s different tomorrow, that is perfectly okay too.” And the fact that your faith seems to be lost at this point is okay. It’s going to morph, it’s going to change. And there’s nothing wrong with however you feel. That is just the way grief is.

So I think those were the big messages that I think what I didn’t know that would have been very helpful is that the brain is working hard to figure out what’s happened and it’s still judging life on what it was. And so if I’d have known that then I would have cut myself a lot more slack because the brain is really just like a Venn diagram with you over here and your husband over here. When the two circles come together, there is a big part in the middle. When you take him away there’s that hole in your side.

It takes your brain a long time to fill that circle back up again to say, “No, you are whole. Don’t worry, you’re not going to be half forever.” But it takes the brain some time to adjust to that. And because that’s a physiological thing, I think there would be less judgment on myself and just say, “No, this is normal. This is how life is going to unfold. Just give it some time, your brain will get used to the fact that he’s not physically here beside you.”

Krista: How is that judgment showing up in your brain, what did it sound like?

Alexis: Well, it’s all the shoulds, that’s one of the wonderful things that I’ve learned in Mom Goes On, is to replace the shoulds with the wants. I want to rather than I should. But the should for everything, I should be doing better. I should be crying less. I should be a better example for my children. I should be sleeping less. I should be eating less. I should be. Should, should, should, whatever. There’s a long list. And yeah, that is the judgment of, I think a lot of ways, not being productive enough that I previously had therapy about that one.

And I had learned that productive is not necessarily always valuable, that you can find joy and that’s okay. Productive, I had attached in my mind that productive is working hard and that’s what’s valuable. So if you’re actually enjoying something, then you’re not working hard, then it mustn’t be valuable. That was kind of an old teaching that I knew. So here we are in this grieving not really knowing what the heck we’re doing because I haven’t done this one before. The idea of how do you be productive in grief was a whole new topic for me and I had lots of judgment about it.

I wasn’t doing it quite right but at the same time, I also was a person who had learned that feeling your emotions and expressing your emotions was okay. I’d never been a person who was too clammed up. So I learned that from my parents, it’s fine to be angry, it’s fine to be sad. And that was helpful, at least I wasn’t stuffing my emotions, if you know what I mean.

Krista: Yeah. What other examples did you have around you? I feel like you’ve spoken about how you were kind of even in a large family, the only one who had lost a spouse. Did you have friends that had gone through something similar?

Alexis: I had one friend whose husband has died and she doesn’t speak about it or she’s never been a person who’s very communicative. When we were younger I would have considered to be shy, but whatever you are as an adult, an introvert maybe is the best word. So I never got much ability to share with her. And other than that, between the two of us, we have what is it? Seven siblings and none of Don’s siblings or my siblings were widowed. My parents, as I said, my parents just celebrated their 67th wedding anniversary.

So the only examples of death in my family were my grandparents who died when I was a teenager, basically, all of my grandparents. So yeah, there’s lots of people, of course, in my church and my community where their husband has died, but not somebody I could really relate to. And I have seen those closest around me not know what to do with it either really, because they haven’t experienced it.

That was one of the thoughts, as I’ve learned thoughts are optional, but this was one thought that was a mantra for a while is nobody understands. Nobody’s gone through it. It was not very helpful, but that was how I felt for sure.

Krista: Yeah, I would love to hear about the progression of how when Don died you were thinking about your future and how that’s kind of changed for you over time.

Alexis: Well, when Don died because it had been so idyllic and I’ve had many relationships up to that point and we were older, it was just sort of the perfect relationship, the perfect life. We had created this perfect life. That was what I believed. And so when it ended, it was like, well, we’re never going to recreate that. My best days are behind me. How am I going to get through the next 30 years? Because I am not suicidal, but I really don’t want to be here. So I have to be here for my children. I have to be here for my children.

I’m hoping that there’ll be some joy between now and the time I die, but really I’m just looking forward to dying so that we can be together again. So I know when you say it out loud it sounds very pathetic. And that’s how I heard myself in the beginning is you’re pathetic for thinking that. Now, of course I understand and have much more compassion for myself. And I say, “Yeah, well, of course, that’s how you felt.” It is even somehow how you feel now. I look forward to reuniting with him.

However, I’ve got some life to live between now and then. And so the progression has been that in those first nine months before I got to the Mom Goes On program, I got to functioning. I got to the place of saying, “Okay, this is reality.” Even though there was a lot of times that it felt so strange that I would say, “I can’t believe this has actually happened, I have really, I’m a widow.” Just there were many a times when I knew it had happened but my body and my being did not feel it yet.

But I got to accepting that this is reality and how are we going to get through the rest of life with as much fun? I don’t even think I thought fun really was an option. How can we get through it with as little drudgery as possible? But I think I knew intellectually that it was possible, but how am I going to do this? Somebody teach me how to do this. And so when I started the program and started to learn the tools it started to open up.

And I was shocked how quickly it opened up. It was a pretty fast transition into wow, there really is life to be lived and I can take him with me. To be happy and to have fun doesn’t mean I have to leave him in the past. I can take our relationship within me onto the future. And everything I’ve learned and all the love that we shared is really just a part of who I am. So I can take that with me. And I guess, like I said, intellectually, I knew that cognitively, your thoughts from all the work I’d done before, your thoughts are within your control and you can change that.

But it was a matter of how am I going to will this to happen? The term of toxic positivity, am I just going to try and be happy? It just felt so fake. So all the things that I learned have gotten me to where I actually got to a point to saying that I love my life, which is so far from where I thought I would be in a year. I remember thinking, well, I wonder where you can get in six months. I wonder where you can get in a year. Yeah, it’s been phenomenal.

Krista: I love that.

Alexis: I think the starting with the feelings. I remember starting with the program and thinking, okay, I feel not great. What do I have to do to change that? How do I feel better? And then Krista said, “Month one, day one you have to feel these awful feelings.” I remember thinking, I paid for this, okay, let’s try it.

Krista: I paid for it, why?

Alexis: Let’s try it, yeah. And it was wonderful because as I said, previously I’d never been afraid of feeling my emotions, but I didn’t want to feel them. So what do I have to do to not feel these? Instead of learning that you actually have to feel them in order to move through them and to recognize that the idea that emotions are not going to kill you, they are just vibrations in your body and that everything we do is based on how we feel.

And so the next part that became aware to me is the, I feel this way, what do I have to do to change it? You don’t have to do anything. What you’re doing is because of the way you feel. That was just huge to me, that was okay, so it’s how I think that’s creating how I’m feeling. I actually have control of how I feel if I can change how I think, wow. And then when I’m doing things where I don’t particularly like the behavior, to recognize that judging yourself and beating yourself up for that is not going to get you to feeling what you want to feel.

You’re doing the behavior because of how you feel, this was huge for me. So those were the big things. The other parts of the program that were very big for me were the understanding that other people’s feelings are not something that you can change and especially, well, as a woman, as a mother in particular, you’re there to fix your children’s problems. And now that has really changed a lot. My daughter, that is just starting into teenagerhood, I think I always would have allowed her to express herself and live her life but it’s even more so now.

Now, I look at it and say, “Really, this is not my life.” You can feel whatever you feel and the program has been so instrumental in her developing as a person. I want you to know that. It hasn’t been me, it’s been for all of us in this house, and especially for her, that she’s now learning. There’s so many times she’ll come to me and she’ll say, “Well, mom, feeling that is really not a problem, remember”, or things like that. And so that is a huge blessing. It is moving into the next generation with all that she’s learning through what I’ve been learning.

And then with my son, of course, it’s a whole different ball game with him. He doesn’t communicate like a typical person might. And so I’m never exactly sure what he’s thinking or if this behavior is coming out of anger or frustration. And that has been hard as a mother to raise him and to decide what is something within my power to change or guide or help as opposed to being a sort of a typical mother? And the program has really helped me to say, “That is not something that I can change, that is his life. How he’s feeling today is not something that I can change. If he’s angry, that’s his anger, not my anger.”

So the relationship with others that I learned the skills from in the program just really has changed my life. And then the other wonderful gift that I got was meeting Linda. Linda Shanti McCabe, who is a member of the Mom Goes On program. And she has, as you know, a program called The Art of Grief. And that has been huge for me. I’ve learned so much about how to express your emotions and different parts of myself and to use this Expressive Arts as a way, as a tool, another tool to first of all to enjoy life. I just love it.

I am not an artist. Nobody’s going to buy my stuff. I don’t even want to hang it up half the time, but for me I have kind of a little studio area. And I have all my stuff and it’s very colorful and the color is beautiful for me. One of the really important parts, the tide between Mom Goes On and The Art of Grief was the learning who my inner child was and who that grief guide inner child kind of part of me is. There is the inner critic that we talk about a lot in Mom Goes On and in The Art of Grief I learned who the little Alexis is, the little girl inside of me.

And so the judgment and the awful things that we sometimes say to ourselves or the inner critic is actually saying to us. I am able to access that little Alexis now through The Art of Grief. I’ve got pictures of her and I can look at her and say, “I have so much compassion for you. I’m not going to judge you for your behavior or judge you for that feeling. It’s only natural.” And I can do that when I am that little child rather than whatever adult version, I think I can berate. It’s been a wonderful combination between The Art of Grief and the Mom Goes On program.

Krista: I love that. And we’ll link to Linda’s Art of Grief. Also we’ll link to in the show notes the podcast where, my interview with Linda if people are listening and they’re curious because, yeah, her stuff is powerful. I have a painting. You can’t really see it. I should probably hang it where people actually can see it, but one of her paintings is on my wall and it just makes me so happy.

I’m also curious to know, what was the difference for you since you started as a podcast listener, what was the difference for you between listening to the podcast and actually being in the program? And how did that compare to what you had expected?

Alexis: Yeah, I’m not sure if I had expectations, particularly. I was going in a little bit blind not knowing what coaching was, life coaching was. I’d had an experience or I’d had a history with having therapy and having therapists and that was always good. But listening to the podcasts, as I said, I started with listening to the Facebook Lives, so that was much more about you interacting with people. And when I saw that or when I heard that, I thought, okay, this is much more interactive. This is much more hands-on, if you’ll say that, rather than thinking about how we’re feeling.

And so I found that the coaching was very valuable in actually being proactive or taking control of yourself rather than, and being in the program was again a step further than actually just listening to it. When you’re listening to other people’s situations, although that is very important in the coaching as well. I love having other people coached, because you can so relate to everything that’s going on in their life in a lot of ways. But when you’re being coached yourself, there’s that, I don’t even know what my problem is, maybe, but I know that something’s not right.

And there is, I don’t know how you do it, but you have this great skill of pulling out what is important and getting us to reframe it or see it differently or say, “Is that really a problem?” So, that was a surprise to me because I didn’t really know what life coaching was. Now, I think, to myself, everybody should have the tools that we have in Mom Goes On. And after listening, I’ve listened to every single call since I started, and some of the ones from before. And I now can self-coach myself a lot of times in my head.

When it starts up I think there’s Krista again in my head. And what is she saying? Yeah, that’s right, that makes sense. And yeah, it’s been very valuable. That was the transition for me from being sort of an outsider watching to now being able to do it for yourself, I guess.

Krista: So what was the decision making process? If you didn’t really know what coaching was like and then you’re like, “Okay, this is a chunk of change”, what was that decision making process for you like to decide that you were actually going to give it a try?”

Alexis: Well, I’m a bit stubborn and so I believed that even though I felt like crap, that that was not my future. I will get through this, I will, sort of what is that kind of quality resilience where you say, “My life, I had a wonderful childhood and early adulthood.” And then a lot of things had happened. I was divorced. I had a child with disability. I had other relationships not work. And it was always like, no, I am not going to drown here. I am going to walk through the fire and get to the other side.

So I knew that that was my future. It felt terrible, but I knew I could do it. I just didn’t know how. And when I listened to the things you said, I kept thinking, she is inside my head. She keeps saying the things that I’m thinking. My best days are behind me is how you had felt. And how can you ever feel joy or whatever the things you were saying.

Particularly, I remember your best days are behind you because that’s really what I was living at the time. And so it was really on faith, I listened to you, I thought, she sounds so credible because she’s done this. She’s been through this. I think I trust her. Maybe it’s too good to be true, I’m not sure, but nobody else seems to have any answers for me in my life other than you’ll get through this. They’re there. So that was it, it was on faith and believing you.

Krista: I have so much just appreciation. I just think about how hard it was for me to make my first coaching investment and that was after I had followed that coach, I mean two years or more. It wasn’t a grief related program. And it was only $300 a month. I mean, comparatively speaking, it was not a chunk of change and yet it was a really hard decision for me to make. So I’m always interested in what is it like. Now of course, I’m like, “$25,000 alright, I believe coaching.” I’m like, “Sign me up.” but it wasn’t always that way.

So to go from not really kind of I’m being a stranger to you and then you just deciding to go in on yourself, that’s amazing.

Alexis: I think I’ve always believed that self-development and putting money towards things that grow yourself personally has value. And I felt that that was really what I needed to do if I was going to be able to move on in life and be anything for my children. So I needed to spend the money. I didn’t want to spend the money. I didn’t want to do this, but I didn’t want to be stuck where I was. And of course stuck is a state of mind. We all know that now, but I did not know that at the time.

And so I was willing to give it a try because it just seemed, as I said, that everything you said made so much sense. Whereas everything I was hearing around me from everyone else was like, no. I had been in a support group, a grief group through my church at about the three or four month time. I went on a widows retreat at about the six month time I guess it was after he died.

I had been reading some books, although I couldn’t really retain a whole lot, so the reading was not so good for me. I went into a widow’s grief lunch group to see there. Everything was sort of, it didn’t really have much weight enough for me to feel like I could move forward in life. So when you spoke, I thought that is what I’m thinking, she’s in my head. So yeah, that’s why I jumped in.

Krista: I’m still in your head, sometimes in good ways maybe sometimes. I love it. I was just, I don’t know if you were on that call, but I just did a free public coaching call earlier this afternoon. And there was a woman that I was talking to and her question was, “If I join, will it benefit my children?” And I always feel so mixed when people ask questions like that, because that’s one of my favorite things about the program. Like you said, knowing that your daughter is actually learning what we’re teaching and working on and applying that to her life and it’s making her life better.

And I know that it’s genuinely intergenerational change is happening because of it. And also it makes me so sad that we’ve been taught as women that we don’t get to invest in ourselves and do things for ourselves unless it benefits our kids.

Alexis: Right, yeah. But you landed on the ‘and’, and that has been such a huge change in my life as well. It’s the ‘and’, before it was, you can’t have one without the other. There’s a but in the middle of a sentence. And in this example you’re speaking of, yes, it can be helpful, and it doesn’t have to be you. You have the value just all on your own. So the ‘and’ throws a different light on everything that we look at that way, rather than saying but. Because when we say the but in the middle of the sentence, it almost negates the first part. Yes, it’s important, but it doesn’t have to be important. It’s like, well, now it doesn’t have any value.

But when you say ‘and’, this is one of the huge things I’ve learned from you and I think pretty much the first, I don’t know, every time I had coaching with you, the answer was always it’s and Alexis, it’s and you can have this thought and that thought at the same time. Wow, that blows my mind. So, yeah, for sure, it is something that has been huge for my family in terms of helping, in the generations to come I know.

But even if there had been no one else, even if it had been just me, I have the value, my life is valuable enough on its own that the teachings that I’ve learned. Why wouldn’t I want to have a great life?

Krista: I love it. What made you want to stick around and do Master’s?

Alexis: I hadn’t learned enough yet. I was at the spot where I thought, well, I feel okay. I feel I’ve learned so much in six months, but I want to learn more. I don’t feel yet totally like I can take this on. So now we’re at the end of that and it’s been a year. And now I feel a different level of confidence than I did. That was one of the weird things when Don died as well is I had before marrying him, been a confident person. I had done a lot on my own. I had traveled a lot.

I had done a lot of things that would give one confidence because at that point I was believing that what we did was what created our confidence as opposed to realizing that confidence comes before we do all those things. And that’s why we’re able to create those things, but that’s another whole story. Anyway, I felt all that and then he died, I lost the confidence and that was baffling. That’s another thing that I would tell my early self is that this lack of confidence that is so confusing, you can gain that again.

And so when I had gone through the first six months of Mom Goes On, I was starting to get some of that but I still didn’t feel like I was the full on Alexis that I wanted to be. So now after a year that has happened. And I feel like I can take on the world if I need to. My phrase is life is an adventure. And I really feel that now. I like the thinking through things with the phrase, what if. In fact I actually did a painting because of course I’ve learned through Linda how to use expressive art.

I was doing a meditation course for a while, and at that point I was able to do this painting and the words, ‘what if’ are in the painting. And everything that I’ve learned from you, the what if is what I say to myself now when I’m thinking about life being adventure. Well, what if you thought about it a different way, how would you feel then? If you’re feeling like even having this experience today with recording with you, I had some nerves about it. Last night I didn’t sleep all that well and I woke up and I thought, well, that’s crazy. Why do I have this anxiety and this nervousness?

And then I thought, the what if, I saw the painting and I thought, okay, what if, what if it just went like a wonderful conversation with Krista? What could you believe about yourself if you thought it could go that way? So the life being an adventure is all about what if it’s like this? What if it’s like that? What can you believe about yourself if you just think about it a little bit differently? So that’s the way I look at life now, thanks to all that that I’ve learned.

Krista: I love it. I love conversations with you. Do you know what I love about you? I mean, there’s so many things I love about you. But I love how other people have benefited from all the coaching you’ve gotten since you’ve been in Mom Goes On, really. And when people, Jamie and I talk about this, when you talk, people listen. I think you have had a really powerful impact on the community through the coaching you’ve gotten, through the conversations we have on the workbook calls. People have really benefited from you in this space.

That that’s one of the things I think makes that community kind of magical, but in particular there’s something special about you that you bring. I don’t know if you see yourself that way but I see you that way.

Alexis: Well, I appreciate hearing that. Thank you very much. I have heard that message a couple of times in the last few months. And the question of what to do in the future. We always wonder, what are we going to do with our future now that it’s not what we expected? And I see myself, obviously, I have my children, who my life is invested in, a lot of their time getting my son to a point of being a little bit more independent and maybe living outside of the family home, my daughter going through high school.

My older daughters have some grandsons, they’re a lot of fun. So that is my future. But what about just the Alexis part? And I see myself being, from a year ago when I was searching for how to feel anything in life other than dread to now where I feel the joy. I’d like to share that with others. I appreciate hearing that others might hear what I have to say as encouraging. And I would like to work in the grief area, but I just don’t know exactly what that’s about. I don’t really want to leave Mom Goes On. So, when you have another position open, I’m applying. I could work with you, Krista.

Krista: And I don’t want to jinx anything but if you were to have asked me before you just said that, I feel that for you, whether it’s with me, which would be amazing or not, I just, I feel that for you for sure.

Alexis: Well, thank you. Thank you very much. I feel like everything in my life builds on what has happened. And when I had a son who was born with autism or diagnosed with autism, I eventually had a charity for children with autism and I spent 15 years doing that. And when it was divinely brought to fruition. It wasn’t something I wanted to do but it wouldn’t leave me. And so it was a calling and I followed the calling. And we were able to help thousands of children. It was more about financial aid and being able to access things within our province of Saskatchewan.

And I’m proud of the work we did there but when it started to not be functional anymore, I questioned why. Why is this not working? But okay, it came up divinely almost then. If it’s not being supported anymore, we’re going to let it go. And what happened afterwards, almost immediately afterwards, my husband was diagnosed with cancer after we closed and COVID began. So I have this feeling that life is there. The opportunities are there, but I have to listen to them.

And so now, okay, now I’m a widow. I didn’t really want to be a widow. I never really wanted to be a mother of a child with autism but that is my life. And so here I am now and I think well, what am I going to do with this or what value can it be to others? And so yeah, I would love to work in the arena, I just don’t know how it’s going to be yet. I do know that it has to be in something that is positive moving forward.

And that might be reinventing the wheel, because everything I believe in and have learned is the Mom Goes On program. So other programs around me have not been what I believe would have helped me and so that is where my heart is. So yeah, we’ll see how life unfolds.

Krista: When my next job opening happens, you know I’m calling first.

Alexis: Well, okay, you know my number. 

Krista: Was there anything you would hope that we would talk about that we missed or anything you really wanted to share that I didn’t ask you about?

Alexis: I think we have covered most everything, it’s been such an interesting journey. As I say, life now seems like an adventure and I’m not afraid to wake-up and see what the next day has to bring. There was always, oh, my there was a song through the Sound of Music. I have listened to the Sound of Music 1,000 times, I think. And Julie Andrews sings, the beginning part, she says, “What will this day be like, I wonder. What will my future hold, I wonder.” And that’s kind of what I feel like now.

It’s kind of like, I didn’t think that I could have joy and excitement about life after Don died because, man, that was just the greatest. That was the perfect relationship and the perfect life that we created, but we created it. I created that with him and I can create something again. I just don’t know what it is yet. There has been talk about, I think that was part of my issues going along was, what am I supposed to do now? And I don’t really want to date anybody. And there’s no hurry.

Life is going to unfold and I’m going to have the opportunities to say yes to things that come along and if it doesn’t feel right, then I won’t. So that’s life as an adventure.

Krista: Yeah. And it’s such a great place to be in where you don’t put pressure on yourself to have solved it, as though the not knowing in this way is some sort of a problem. When, as you said it, it’s just really this unfolding that’s happening and that you’re open to and along for the ride with, which is amazing.

Alexis: The judgment has been something that I really, I always thought I liked myself, but my, now it’s so much more. I’m my own best cheerleader. There’s the judgment that has changed so much. I didn’t realize I was judging my own thoughts. And like you say, things that are not nearly as bad of an issue for you, it’s the judgment that you have about yourself having that issue so yeah.

Krista: Yeah. We don’t need to change, we don’t need to change ourselves as much as we need to just stop judging ourselves.

Alexis: Exactly, yeah, for sure.

Krista: Yeah. Thank you so much for being willing to come and share your story.

Alexis: Well, it is just such a true delight. I was so privileged to be one of the people to come to your house and to be a part of the June celebration. And I just feel since that, I mean up to that point, I was still growing and continue to grow. But that event was just, I don’t know. It was like a graduation, it was you have done the work, Alexis. And look at these people that you get to call your equals and you get to call your friends. And yeah, it’s such a true honor to be able to call you my friend now, Krista. Yes, thank you so much.

Krista: Thank you for giving me the opportunity to have that relationship with you, yeah, I really appreciate you.

Alexis: I love you.

Krista: Alright, we’ll close it out there and then we’ll hang out later. Thank you, Alexis.

Alexis: Sounds good, alright, bye bye.

Krista: Take care.

If you like what you’ve been hearing on this podcast and want to create a future you can truly get excited about after the loss of your spouse, I invite you to join my Mom Goes On coaching program. It’s small group coaching just for widowed moms like you where I’ll help you figure out what’s holding you back and give you the tools and support you need so you can move forward with confidence.

Please don’t settle for a new normal that’s less than you deserve. Go to coachingwithkrista.com and click work with me for details and the next steps. I can’t wait to meet you.

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About your coach

I created a new life using small, manageable steps and techniques that made sense. The changes I experienced were so profound I became a Master Certified Life Coach and created a group coaching program for widows like us called Mom Goes On. It’s now my mission to show widowed moms exactly how to do what I’ve done and create a future they can look forward to.

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