Welcome to The Widowed Mom Podcast, episode 215, Widows Unfiltered: An Interview with Cindy Arcuri.
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 have an interview for you today, another Widows Unfiltered. Today I want you to meet Cindy Arcuri. And I love Cindy’s story because she’s another one of those widowed mom clients who didn’t really know what she wanted to do when she came to coaching. And I know you hear these stories. I have women come on the podcast and tell their story and they’re doing amazing things. Cindy is doing amazing things now in the world but she didn’t know that coming into coaching.
And I’ll let her tell you the story but what she knew was that if she didn’t support herself and invest in herself she probably wasn’t going to get where she wanted to go, even though she didn’t really know where that was exactly. And then through the process of coaching she got clarity on that. She decided what she wanted her mission to be in the next chapter of life. She decided that she wanted to go become a life coach and now she has her own business, Enjoy Work Coaching and she’s helping people be happy at work, which there’s so much value in that.
So I hope you enjoy this interview with Cindy and we’ll get into it.
Krista: Alright, welcome, Cindy, to the podcast.
Cindy: Thanks, Krista, great to be here.
Krista: It’s so strange when you haven’t seen someone for a while, that you’re used to seeing on Zoom and then you see them again. And it really does feel like kind of a time warp. It’s like when did we coach and what’s happened since then and all of that. But it’s really fun to see your face. So let me instead of introducing you, I’ll just have you introduce yourself. So tell listeners who you are, how you came to be a widow, who is Cindy, tell us the things.
Cindy: No problem, thanks, Krista. Well, I’m Cindy Arcuri. And I became a widow on July 30th, 2020, when my husband of 30 years passed. Joe had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer four years earlier. And we had a lot of hope, a lot of great time in that four years but unfortunately when it came back the last time it hit the liver and he actually went fairly quickly, about [inaudible] months. Unfortunately I had just retired in May and we were getting ready to have what every couple hopes to have, which is those golden 10 years. And so unfortunately I didn’t get to do that with my Joe.
But I’m getting to do a lot of fun stuff now and he would be so happy to know that I’m on this part of the journey.
Krista: I think it’s such a challenging time when it happens. When we see it happen right when people have this vision for what life is going to be like maybe when they’re empty nesting or right at the retirement mark where you just really have this picture of what life is going to be like. And then it doesn’t turn out anything like that. What did you imagine that the two of you would be doing after you retired?
Cindy: Yeah. So we always talked about our five year plan, our 10 year plan or what it was going to look like 30 years from now. So we had a great relationship. It was a marriage really of partners and strong supporters. And we were older when we got married so we often said we didn’t have any excuses. So we kind of, we just envisioned our life together traveling. He always thought I’d have my own business. I had a long career in HR and I do training and development of leaders and leadership coaching, but he always thought I would have that.
He used to say he would be my chauffeur, we’d be going from city to city. And he was an avid, he loves sports. Every city we’d go to we’d go to the major baseball league’s game in that city. And we just had this whole life planned always together. And that was what was so odd about it as you know from so many of your widows that you coach is all of a sudden, it’s not there. That whole future that you’ve spent 30 plus years planning together is gone and that was just heart rendering. But that’s what we envisioned it was going to be like.
And then eventually moving wherever the grandkids were so we could kind of have fun with them and sugar them up and bring them back to their parents.
Krista: That’s the land of milk and honey is what I call it, when kids are with their grandparents, yeah. So four years of a cancer battle though off and on, that’s a long time too. I mean that’s not exactly, it sounds like it happened quickly at the end but that’s a really long drawn out.
Cindy: Yeah, that was. And we were blessed in that we found it so early for Joe. We found it right after our trip actually to Europe. My son was studying in Seville, Spain and we had gone over to see some of Europe. And Joe just wasn’t doing good so when we came home I said, “You have to go. There’s something wrong with your system.” But we had our journey through that where he had to get major surgery and he really was always a very fit kind of healthy guy normally.
And then pancreatic cancer most people don’t find it till late but we were so blessed we found it early. And so his diagnosis was actually for quite a long time projected to be good. But then when they found it a second spot around the celiac artery two years later and that caused tremendous pain, tremendous pain. It’s a journey of a lot of pain with that particular illness and as it is for a lot of cancer patients. And then at the very end we didn’t realize it had then come back a third time in that liver area which just, he just had gotten so thin and so unhappy with his physical appearance.
So we went all through that journey together. But my role in all that, Krista, always felt like so many spouses, that your role in all that is to maintain positivity. And so it was so hard to really accept even though physically I could see him getting smaller and smaller, it was just so hard to accept that he might actually die from this disease. And denial is a great coping mechanism. We talked about that in our coaching. Denial helps you through that tough time and to remain a hope in the end for them.
Krista: Yeah. What was it like for you in those really early days of grief after Joe died?
Cindy: I was a mess really. Everybody has their role to play in the family and I come from one of three sisters. So I’m the middle child and I’ve always had leadership roles. So everyone sees me as the strong one. My parents kind of raised me to be the strong one. And all of a sudden I was a mess. I was just so unsure the woman who was existing in my current body was almost like a time I had this tremendous widow’s fog. I’ve never had fog. People would come have fog in my leadership role who would hope I’d forget stuff.
But I was always like, “[Inaudible] and do you need my help on this?” So I just couldn’t, just was in a fog. I was so devastated and sad. And as you know, grief is all these different emotions. It’s not just one emotion but no one teaches us how to get through [crosstalk].
Krista: Yeah. How did it compare to what you expected, was it a huge surprise to you that your confidence was shot?
Cindy: Yeah, because I had had 60 some years of being that strong kind of independent woman to find myself in this crossroads that almost in a hole, how do I get myself out of there? And I had been through grief before. I had lost my mom and dad, lost my in-laws who I was extremely close with. We were caregivers for all four of our parents. And so I thought I knew what grief was. This is I think the message I would like people to know, even if you’ve been through grief, going through grief as a widow is totally different.
The other times it shook me and I had sadness, but it never created this [inaudible] that I was just crying all the time. And honestly, nobody knew how to help because no one’s been through the journey yet. Where kind of even in my early 60s but no one close to me had lost a spouse. So that was the other thing that was really challenging, you have no community or network.
Krista: And then if everyone’s used to turning to you as the strong person and then that’s not a role you’re able to play in those moments, I’m sure it was very disorienting to the people who saw you in that way. What did you do in kind of the earlier days for support, what helped you?
Cindy: Yeah. So one thing that really helped me was just allowing almost the crazy emotions, okay, in the very beginning it was just tons of tears. My sister was great, my local sister. She allowed me to just cry. She didn’t try to say it was going to be okay. She just sort of sat with me, which was, I look back on that now and think what a gift that was, her and my other sister. And then I think you kind of, you buffer. I buffered with a ton of stuff just to help me get through, probably drank more wine. I love red wine but I probably drank more wine than needed to.
And buffered with things like Netflix, I could start turning on a show or a movie and all of a sudden it’s a widow and I’m like, okay, I’ve got to get out of this. Somebody show a warning, I think when you have warnings on all the shows, right, Krista.
Krista: Disney ones and the Pixar ones and all the ones that you think are going to be happy and then somebody’s dad dies, yes, I do.
Cindy: Yeah, that’s like you’ve just got to. So I think that for me that was the journey [inaudible] early. And then I just didn’t want to get stuck there. It was so easy to get stuck, that belief that where I was, was where I was always going to be.
Krista: Yeah. So how did you find, did you find the podcast first or how did that all happen?
Cindy: Yeah, so it was so crazy because two months earlier one of my dear friends of since first grade we’ve been friends, lost her husband after one year of colon cancer. And it was during COVID so she couldn’t really have everybody she wanted at the funeral because of COVID. And so she had asked me to help her plan a celebration of life outside in her backyard. And so I was doing a lot of research on that and somehow your ad on Facebook came up. And I saved it because I started to think Patty may need this. I thought it was too soon. It was in May, late May.
Then you know how when you save Facebook it will pop up. But wait, this is how strange, I know I was destined for you. Fast forward, it’s seven weeks later I’m in the hospital, in the third hospital stay in two months with my husband, Joe, and we just find out and he tells me, “Honey, I’m dying.” And I was a mess. I was like, “You have to fight, you can’t give up on me.” He’s like, “I’ve tried giving you. It’s always been my goal to give you everything in our marriage but I can’t give you that.”
And so he goes to bed, they were wonderful with me, it’s still COVID, they let me stay. But I wanted to let him sleep and I went out in this quiet room. And your ad for Facebook pops up as a reminder. And in that moment I knew this was always meant for me. And then after I lost Joe I started listening to the podcast, you have those really great ones, those first ones, the now process. And honestly, Krista, the now process from a podcast got me through the early weeks of my grief.
Krista: I’m so glad you had that so early on.
Cindy: I mean it was so helpful because I just didn’t know even how to process all this crazy emotion because we said it’s not one. So that’s how I found you. And then I just kept listening to the podcast. And then no one was helpful because no one had been through it. I shouldn’t say no one but I mean how were they going to help me through a journey they hadn’t been through? And then I just started following you. And then all of a sudden I signed up and we did a one-on-one I think in October and November I joined.
And you felt I was ready to join, which I was grateful for. In November I joined with a great group of women and we went all the way to May. And we continued to meet monthly.
Krista: Your group?
Cindy: Our group, we call ourselves The November Mom Goes On Group.
Krista: I love it. So how did it compare, what did you expect coaching would be like and then what was it like?
Cindy: I really didn’t have any idea what to expect. I’ve been a career coach as part of my HR responsibilities in leadership but I had no idea of exactly how you were going to put us through this journey and my workbook came. My workbook arrived and I was like, “I’m so excited.” And I wasn’t really very comfortable on Zoom and the technology and Slack and I got all great on that and you walked us through it. And I think my expectation was that you were going to help me, that you had a path forward, that I needed that help.
And maybe it’s just my perspective but I think as women we don’t always invest in our own health or our own well-being. I kept thinking, should I be doing this, should I not be doing this? But I knew that I needed your help to get through and process it, if I was ever going to get back to enjoying my life again.
Krista: I love that you brought that up because I just think we’re not taught to value our own wellness. We’re taught to help other people and be the caregivers and prioritize service. But we really aren’t taught that our mental well-being and what we want, even if it’s beyond mental well-being, even if it’s a good career. We’re not taught to invest in ourselves in order to get what we want outside of formal education.
Cindy: Right. And I think that just knowing that I couldn’t get stuck there, that would not be what Joe would want for me. That would not be what I would want. And that would definitely not be good for my son and his future family. So I was so grateful, it was honestly exactly what I needed and just such a lifesaving for me.
Krista: Well, you really took it seriously. You showed up for calls. You had your workbooks done. I mean you really went for it.
Cindy: Yeah. I have to tell you, it was perfect for me. I mean the outline was great. We had the workbook, it wasn’t so overwhelming that I couldn’t get it done, was the right amount of time. And so I showed up. I was anxious. I learned also from so many of the other widows being coached on the call. And some of them I love the fact that after month one you had put us with other people that were further along. And I remember reaching out to a few of them and they said, “Where you are now is not where you will be when you’re done with Krista’s program.”
Krista: Yeah, I’m so glad.
Cindy: Yeah. I could see it and hear it, yeah.
Krista: Yeah. I know some people just love a model that everybody starts and finishes at the same time. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that but I love being able to have people who are in all different places because when there’s a woman who is just a little bit further down the road from you, but yet she knows exactly what it’s like to be where you are. She’s getting help herself on the things that she wants to work on but she’s also motivated to help you because she remembers and it feels good.
And I just think that community feel of everyone supporting each other as they work through the program is magic. I love the cohort model. So at what point because I remember coming up on the end of your six months where you were kind of trying to decide, alright, am I going to continue? Am I going to do the master’s program? Or maybe I think I might want to get another training here and become a certified life coach? What was that like? When did it kind of enter your mind that maybe you might want to get certified in the style of coaching that I do?
Cindy: So I had begun to see the power of the model and how you were able to move people through really what I consider one of the hardest journeys that people have to go through, losing a partner. And so seeing the power of that model I was like, “You know what, this is the missing piece to help me move people when I’m career coaching them.” Because I had begun, because it was COVID I had begun doing career coaching with some family members who found themselves all of a sudden out of work.
And I was using the model with them but I felt like I needed more, I needed more training in it, more knowledge in it. And then I was comparing, I was also talking with GE because I was an HR senior manager there at a very large plant. And so I used to do a lot of training and development and leadership coaching. And they were encouraging me to get my executive coaching certification. So I was kind of like at a crossroads, do I join your master’s program? Do I get life coach certified or the executive coaching?
And I considered all three, you were kind enough to do a one-on-one call with me where you talked about the life coach curriculum, why you [inaudible]. I did more research on it. And I realized that that’s where my heart is. That’s really where we empower people to transform their lives. And that is what you need whether you’re working through the loss of a partner or whether you’re deciding you need a new career or whether you just want to improve your current relationships with your family. That’s how I ended up getting life coach certified. And I’ve been certified since last May.
Krista: I can’t believe that much time has passed, I really do sometimes not know what happens with time. So when did you start getting the idea of the Enjoy Work Coaching business that you have created now?
Cindy: Well that’s, I’ve always been on a mission to improve the lives of working people, but it became very clear to me that this was my mission in my semi-retirement. Because one thing you really helped me with, Krista, your coaching was to look at what the future could hold now. And one of the things is to give ourselves permission to create the future we want. Because I think in a way as widows we kind of are always feeling they should be here or maybe I’m not entitled to enjoy that because they don’t get to enjoy it, a lot of guilt, you helped me with that, your program.
And so when I decided that really my mission is to help people find work they enjoy and get financially free. And I’m so passionate about that for three reasons. One, it creates purpose in their life like never before. If you’re enjoying your work you really have your purpose figured out and you can live up to your full potential. It creates a better home life for you. It creates a better work life for your employer but it also creates better communities and I’m all about that.
So I decided that people have the right to enjoy work. And that’s why my business is called, Enjoy Work Coaching. You have that, that’s your right to enjoy it. You get to define it. You get to create it. And the model helps us do that in my coaching.
Krista: I love that you said, “When I decided my mission.” Because I think that’s another area of struggle that we have because a lot of us are under the impression that we have to go find our mission or it feels like this soldier, like this, I don’t know. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to figure it out. We think it’s something that we can do wrong or mess up and there’s only one right mission to find.
And so I love the choice of words that you just had of deciding because it really is a choice that we all can just make. And then we can change our minds if we want to, too. When did you decide that was your mission, do you remember?
Cindy: Yeah, I think it tied back to around that toward the end of our coaching together. I think there was one exercise where you had us write where we’ll be in 10 to 15 years, kind of work goals. Do you remember that? And that was I think almost one of the last exercises we did.
Krista: Yeah, relationship with time.
Cindy: Yeah. And I wrote those down. And so it became very clear to me that that was what I wanted to do. I wanted to create that possibility for people that they can enjoy work again. And you have to remember, because COVID was hard on all of us, especially working moms. And I was meeting a lot of widows who had very young children trying to figure out their way forward. They had to create that financial freedom again for themselves without a husband, without a partner but for their children.
And so that capability of no, you can enjoy work and get financially free, the and is what we don’t really allow ourselves to believe.
Krista: So you think a lot of people come to you and they’re thinking, well, maybe I can enjoy work but I won’t actually be able to have the financial life that I want to have, they think it’s an either or?
Cindy: Exactly. And we know that because that’s our primitive brains, it’s either or. But I had learned through your coaching and the model is this great word is called and.
Krista: And. I love it. Sometimes I think it’s easy when I have somebody like you on the podcast who is doing something that’s really powerful and impactful in the world, it’s helping a lot of people. And some listeners find that intimidating because they think, well, I don’t have a vision like that. I don’t have how many years at GE and HR and I don’t even know what I want. And so what I love hearing is that you kind of didn’t know what you wanted but then at a certain point you used the tools you learned and you decided what you wanted.
And then you went and created it for yourself which is much more relatable. Cindy can do it, maybe other people can do it too. Of course, you’re magical and amazing but so is everybody else and you don’t have to know exactly what you’re going to do and what you want to figure it out.
Cindy: Yeah, for sure. And I’m a firm believer that we have this idea that it’s going to come up perfectly from the start and it has grown and morphed and gotten better as I failed forward. I did not allow myself to, it’s like what’s the worst thing that can happen? Well, I try and it doesn’t work or it’s not what I want to do, it’s okay. It’s okay. And so I think you’re absolutely right, it isn’t that I’m great. It isn’t that I have 25 years of HR experience.
And it isn’t that, I was just as new to the model and the idea of intentionally picking your thoughts to create your results as every other widow going through. In fact I was probably harder for you at times to coach because I didn’t want to feel my feelings. So I was probably terrible the first few months because all I wanted to do was get to the end. I didn’t want to feel anything. I know I was difficult. There were times you said, “Cindy, you have to let yourself feel that.” Do you remember?
Krista: No. I don’t want to. You know what’s fun for me, I know every coach has a different philosophy but I really find it boring when I’m coaching people who just kind of go along to get along. It’s way more fun to me to coach people who maybe are a little resistant to some of what I’m teaching or the tools that they’re learning. But they do it in an honest way. They acknowledge the parts that they’re resisting. And then we can have a conversation about it and get curious about it then it’s interesting.
And to me those people who push a little bit and don’t just kind of swallow everything they’re taught, those are the ones who really go on to use the tools the most and they create for themselves a higher level of mastery because they’ve kind of pushed things to the edge a little bit and not just being a lemming. So to me, bring on the challenging ones, those are the ones who are going to use the tools to blow their minds and that’s way more fun for me.
Cindy: Yeah. So I really agree and hope that everybody listening today knows, it’s an individual journey. Don’t compare yourself to anyone and really allow yourself to take the time you need to feel those feelings. And then apply the rest of the tools.
Krista: Yeah, I love that you said that. So if somebody out there is listening and they’re like, “Well, listen, I don’t really enjoy my work but how do I know if what Cindy does can help me?” What would you tell them?
Cindy: Yeah. I would absolutely say, look me up at my website. My website’s enjoyworkcoaching.com. I give free strategy sessions, they are 30 minutes. So we can have that dialog, sign up for those. And then I think it’s really important, especially as widows that you understand you’re at a crossroads and many things are changing for you. And if you’re not enjoying work, we can help you get there. I can help you do that. You know what you need and so my proprietary process called the Connection Model really helps you get clearer on that. We’re going to design it based on what you need now.
Krista: But people don’t have to be widows, right, you’re not only working with widows?
Cindy: No. No, I’m not.
Krista: So if somebody’s got somebody in their family that’s not enjoying working, it’s not just a widow thing.
Cindy: Right, no, not at all, no. I’m passionate about helping widows because I know that your worlds have been rocked, but no. And actually to be honest with you, a lot of moms from Mom Goes On, two of them of my November group have sent a graduating college seniors to me. I have a young professional program that really helps them. You’ve made this over 100K investment in their college and then you’re worried about them launching successfully and getting independent. And so many parents find that so useful.
Krista: Yeah. And they’re not going to listen to us as the parent, they’re going to listen to a third party expert who knows, yeah, good for you.
Cindy: Yeah. And so it’s really fun, working with the young professionals is fun but working with the mid-level senior people who are like, “I’m just unhappy, I need to get.” Believe me, when you enjoy your work, every other area of your life ends up being improved.
Krista: For sure. Think about how much time you spend at work.
Cindy: Yeah. And my clients report that. I mean on average, Krista, my clients get over a 22,000 per year raise.
Krista: Cindy, that’s amazing.
Cindy: Well, it’s their results but the program works. I know it works. It’s broken down into those three things.
Krista: So they end up believing in themselves more and then advocating for more pay.
Cindy: Right. It’s actually three phases. Phase one is getting clear on what you need now to enjoy work. That’s why I introduced the model, the assessments. Phase two is selling your value. And then phase three is all about setting you up for success. And I’m the insider so I know how to teach you how to negotiate your pay raise, something no one can choose you.
Krista: So important especially for women.
Cindy: And women, we don’t advocate for pay raises and I mean we don’t network as well because we’re busy running households. And so I teach you all those skills you need to set up for success. And then we go into the new role, whether you’ve stayed within the company at a new role or you’ve moved companies with the right mindset to [crosstalk].
Krista: Yeah. And you’re not going to be able to negotiate for yourself if you don’t believe in yourself. So just that alone surely shifts things for people’s careers. So good. Okay, so you said enjoyworkcoaching.com, right?
Cindy: That’s it.
Krista: We’ll put that in the show notes. Anything we missed?
Cindy: I don’t think so. Just that there’s hope out there.
Krista: There is hope out there.
Cindy: There is and invest in yourself in the time, don’t wait. Invest in yourself, don’t be afraid. You will reap such great rewards as life gets so much better when you’re on the other side.
Krista: I love it. Thanks so much for coming and to share your story, Cindy.
Cindy: You’re welcome. Thanks, Krista, [inaudible].
Krista: Yes, we’ll keep in touch. Okay, thanks.
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.