PR 260 | Pivoting Through Loss


There’s a series of pivots because a lot of things in this world are subject to change. It’s inevitable and you don’t have control over it. Listen to Kristine Carlson as she talks about pivoting through loss and building the resilience you need to conquer fear and self-doubt. She is a renowned speaker, inspiring podcast host, retreat leader and blogger. Her mission is to help women transform from heartbreak and loss to live their best lives with joy, gratitude, renewed passion and purpose. In this episode, she shares the importance of identifying your powerful presence and spirit so you can transform your life and achieve what you want. Tune in to learn more about expressing yourself and navigating the world of changes and challenges.

Show Notes:

  • 04:14 Kristine introduces herself
  • 10:32 Becoming more responsive instead of reactive
  • 14:25 A recipe for resilience 
  • 19:11 The power of reframing
  • 21:44 The importance of self-care
  • 29:25 Heartbroken Open and From Heartbreak to Wholeness
  • 34:05 Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

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Pivoting Through Loss, Building Resilience, And Conquering Fear With Kristine Carlson – Replay

In this episode, we have Kristine Carlson. Kristine is a survivor, widow, mother, grandmother, wife, writer, and bestselling author many times over. She’s an empathetic mentor for people navigating the exceptionally urgent poignant time known as middle age. She’s an inspirational speaker and guide for all who desire to practice happiness, live authentically and connect with their most vibrant selves.

Major life changes and transitions can often knock us down and make us forget our own strength and who we truly are in our hearts and souls. We don’t sweat the small stuff when we are living the big stuff. Kristine’s mission is to help women reclaim their identity and live their next chapter with renewed joy, gratitude, and purpose in the midst of life-altering change. Whatever you are going through now, know that she is here for you to encourage love and walk alongside you during this profound and transformative journey as you discover who you are and awaken to your higher self.

Some of the things that we discussed in this episode include how she uses gratitude for good times, and through the hard times. The loss of her husband, Dr. Richard Carlson, author of Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff books, why she embraces her 50s, and the reinvention of this phase of her life becoming more responsive and less reactive to life, and why your day-to-day habits and practices can support you during loss, change, and other disruptions. We talk about the reason that she leaned into the loss of her husband and how she used it to grow, heal, and become more resilient. Enjoy this episode of my conversation with the lovely Kristine Carlson.

We were saying before we were getting started that sometimes the most interesting conversation is what is happening before we hit the record button. I decided, “Let’s hit the record button and see where things flow to.” Kristine Carlson, you are an amazing person. I want you to share with our readers a little bit about yourself and I don’t want you to be shy either. I don’t like to read introductions. It’s not my favorite thing to do. I don’t even like it when people read mine. I prefer to hear about you from you.

The first thing I would love you to know is that I just had my fourth grandbaby so I’m a nana. I don’t let my grandkids don’t call me grandma. They call me nana. Probably the greatest joy in the entire universe is to have grandkids. It’s an honor and a privilege to play such a strong role in their lives. That’s exciting news for me. A few who knew me know that I’m the widow of Richard Carlson, the author of Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff and It’s All Small Stuff, although that would be my bone to pick with him. It isn’t all small stuff after all.

I’ve had an amazing life and journey. I’ve been so richly blessed that focusing on the gratitude for everything that I’ve been given and all the blessings of my life has been what’s gotten me through the hard times. The measure of a great life is not measured by success or failure, but it’s measured by how well we go through the hard times. I lost Richard several years ago suddenly to a pulmonary embolism. Millions of his fans still don’t even know that he’s passed because his work is a brilliant light in the world. That’s incredible. Richard would smile knowing that his work has lived on.

He always said, “The measure of a great business is one that you could walk away from and it still continues to move forward.” His work has helped so many people and I hope that it helps the whole next generation of people. I very much see it as my position in life to help carry that forward. Along with that, I’ve written several other books. I’m writing a new book. My books are a little deep-dive. They’re more about healing, moving through loss and heartbreak, becoming whole, and returning to joy.

If you knew me, you’d know that I’m a joyful person. I love to laugh and have fun. This is a great time in our lives. We’re talking about being in our 50s. I don’t see being in my 50s as being a drawback at this point. I don’t have PMS anymore. I’m so much nicer and more even-tempered. Richard would love to be married to me now.

PR 260 | Pivoting Through Loss

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff and It’s All Small Stuff

It’s a productive time, too. I find it to be a wonderful time in life. I hope anybody who’s reading this in their 50s feels the same way. It’s an amazing time of reinvention. That’s what I’ve been doing lately, working with people and helping them discover their life passion and be more vibrant and healthier through all the ups and downs of life.

It’s a series of pivots. It’s the name of the show. We explore this concept of pivoting and reinventing, and doing it consciously versus being in reaction. I haven’t asked you whether you’ve read this book, but I’m diving deep into The Presence Process book by Michael Brown. It’s beautiful to explore. Again, that distinction between reaction and response and the ability to respond consciously managing and utilizing the change that is ever-present. It’s one of those great constants in life is that things are continually evolving and changing.

Change is something that people fear. I’ve had fear and issues around change and disruption, especially when it’s not planned. Clearly, you had a major disruption of your life plan. You were working on a good plan. You are married to a man you loved and having a great life. He’s doing work that has a legacy impact as a historical offering as Fernando Flores was sharing with us at ATL.

In the midst of all that, something changes drastically and dramatically in an instant. You have to pivot and change. There’s a shift that occurs. How did you handle that? My guess is that that’s also a part of where you help people to heal themselves and integrate their life experiences so that they can be productive. Whether they’re in their 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, or wherever they might be, the ability to live fully now or in the present is a big deal.

You talk about becoming more responsive to life and less reactive. If you look at the Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff books and the wisdom in those books points to mindfulness, being responsive to life, and being less reactive. The tools that you gain by practicing a life like that help you practice life when you have to do a large pivot turn when life shatters.

The measure of a great life is not just all the success that you have, or even it’s not measured by success or failure. It’s measured by how well we go through the hard times. Share on X

There are two things that people always ask me, “Can you prepare for loss? Can you prepare for change?” I say, “Loss in and of itself is like childbirth. You can do everything right and then you get to that birthing day and don’t know how that birth is going to go. It’s going to be different for everyone and different for each child.”

You’re going to go through that loss and change slightly differently than you did before, but how you practice living on a day-to-day basis, the level of presence, emotional wellbeing, tools that you have in your tool belt, how centered and calm you are in your life, and all of these things play a huge role when life does shatter and when something happens that is unexpected. You refer to all of those tools that you have in your tool belt to make that pivot turn to be able to stand in those circumstances.

I love Randy Pausch’s work so much in the last part of his life when he said, ” We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.” That’s where we have power and control. We can come at any change with an empowered stand. The one thing that I identified for myself very early on was that I had 2 choices and there were only 2 for me. I could be a victim of these circumstances or I could stand up, walk the hero’s journey, and live what I was given.

I referred to this in my introduction saying, “For me, I was so blessed. In the 25 years that I had known Richard had changed so much and was a bigger expression of life than I ever could have planned or anticipated for my own life. It was a bigger dream that I held with him than I could have ever dreamed up on my own. Maybe even for him, we always felt like instruments of the divine, pure heart, and love. That we were being played.

An inspiration would come to him and me and we would play with it in a way because we offered ourselves to it. I continued to do that throughout my loss. I continued to offer myself to the spirit to be guided, loved in grace, heal, and allow grief and loss to do its work on me. I wasn’t like one to jump ship on because it was painful. I wanted to know that this loss counted for as much as this life had and it did. It awakened, shaped, and shifted me into a completely new woman in a lot of ways.

PR 260 | Pivoting Through Loss

Pivoting Through Loss: The measure of a great business is one that you could walk away from and it still continues to move forward.


It’s one of the things that I didn’t know at earlier stages of life. A lot of the people in our community are millennials. There are people that are in various stages. At an earlier stage in my own development, I didn’t realize how important resilience was and now, it’s part of the pivot recipe or formula. Resilience is so impactful. It seems like you developed a recipe for being resilient in the midst of all that disruption, chaos, grief, and loss.

Referring to presence, what I realized too is that when I would spend any time in my past, there are this many stages of grief that you go through. You can refer to Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ work. Although I never felt like I would go through them and be done with them, I felt like I was all over the map with them.

In the beginning, I remember feeling like, “If I look back, it’s so painful because I wish I could have stopped what happened. I wish I had known or seen something that would’ve indicated Richard’s health wasn’t the way we thought it was.” He died from a pulmonary embolism on the descent of a flight to New York. It’s like having a blood clot or aneurysm that explodes and he died instantly. There wasn’t a lot of warning for him or anything and certainly, no warning for us.

If I spent time thinking about my past, I was in incredible pain and if I went into my future in that time period, I was also in incredible pain and a lot of fear. I learned to bring my attention and thoughts back into the present moment. I looked at it, “This is a vertical alignment.” I’m aligning with spirit at this moment. At this moment I feel pretty good, can find joy, and be healthy. There was a lot of peace in the present moment for me during that first year, especially.

At the end of that first year, I thought, “What a miracle.” Oprah always said that Richard was the one that taught her how to be present in her life. I always thought that I was pretty present, but then when I practiced presence and grief, then I understood what true presence was. It was beautiful because it gave me that whole year to practice presence as a mode of an upright to survive. That was what it was about, it was surviving that first year.

Sometimes, what you need is stillness. You need time to walk in nature and time walking in the trees and being able to feel my feelings. To heal, you need to feel. Share on X

For anybody who’s going through loss or has a great fear of loss, honestly, we’re geared to go through these things. You don’t have to be afraid. If you can stay more present in your life, you’ll be okay. You’ll go through it. At some point, you’ll wake up one day and life will feel much more normal again. That’s what happened to me.

Sometimes a sudden loss of a job can feel like your life has gotten turned upside down. Maybe a business that you invested so much of your love, time, and energy into like it’s a family member or a baby, sometimes those businesses don’t go well either and you lose that. Resilience is so key. I can only come from my own experience. For me, these three things are a must. One, take whatever the circumstance or situation is and frame it differently. You framed it as something that is awful.

In the background of your screen, I can see this beautiful tree. I’m looking at that tree and I see that there are some leaves, but it looks to me like the Tree of Life. That’s the frame I’m putting that picture in for myself. I could look at it and it could trigger my history or past, maybe even traumatic experiences.

I could look at that tree and frame it differently. It could bring up a memory of a past loss, hurt, or something, but that’s not how I’m seeing that tree. I’m seeing that as a Tree of Life, something that’s going to bear fruit and go through seasons. Leaves will fall, and then they’ll grow back. It’s this beautiful, strong, organic, connected, divine thing that’s the essence of life itself.

That’s framing for something like that. It’s the same thing with every area of our life. We can put it in a frame and choose what will be within the borders of that frame. Reframe the experience in a positive way. Move to the stage of, “What have I learned?” You learn so much through the grieving process. You learn so much from being in a relationship with Richard and all of the things that happened before his death. You learn so much as a result of his death, including what you said that you learned the true meaning of presence.

PR 260 | Pivoting Through Loss

Pivoting Through Loss: Continue to offer yourself to the spirit and to be guided and to be loved in grace, and to heal and to allow grief and loss to do its work on you.


It’s incredible. Life itself is the best teacher. No doubt.

To me, the third piece of this resilience recipe is our ability to take care of ourselves. People will get the first two. “I get it. I got to reframe this thing. I can’t look at it like whatever’s going on is the end of the world,” type of thing. “I know I can learn whatever it is that’s there for me,” but then they still don’t necessarily take care of themselves as a part of the recovery process.

To be resilient and be that Willow tree that bends in the wind and doesn’t break. More often than not, it comes back stronger. I’m curious whether you’ve had certain rituals that you’ve adopted to help you recover and that takes care of you in body, mind, and spirit. Would you share a few of those things?

Initially, I knew intuitively that I needed to take care of myself through the early stages of grief and even the first couple of years. I remember the first year, I didn’t even drink any alcohol because there was a little bit of fear that I might become dependent on it to numb myself out. I knew intuitively and also from all of our years of personal study and personal growth work, that it’d be too easy to try to numb out to that pain. I knew that the only way out was going to be going all the way in.

I also realized that I needed to get a lot of rest. I created a lot of space in my calendar. People tell you in grief to be busy. I didn’t believe that was true. I believed that what I needed was stillness, time in nature, time walking in the trees, and being able to feel my feelings. I knew that to heal I had to feel. There wasn’t going to be any other way through this for me. I spent a lot of time hiking with my dog. I didn’t exercise for the same reasons. I wasn’t exercising for fitness. Although I have to say when I was in grief, I probably looked better than I’ve ever looked in my life because I was crying all the time and crying is like a huge immune system booster. It’s like a youth serum for some reason.

There’s nothing that gets you through loss bigger than that love. Share on X

I knew I need to do what I call supreme self-care. I meditated a lot. I would lay on my floor in stillness and allow grief to move through my body. Sometimes I would shake and cry. Sometimes I would scream and be laughing hysterically. The word allow was a big word for me. Being surrendered to what is as opposed to me trying to make my life a certain way. I had felt like my life had completely shattered, but with that, I wasn’t holding the perfect life anymore.

It was almost like, “I can be in this life.” I allowed myself to rebirth in that way. We are far from the perfect life after Richard died. It looked and felt pretty perfect when he was alive. Those are some of the things I did. I took a lot of baths with Epsom salt. I found that grounding. I spent time with people that were super nurturing to me. I did not spend time with people who weren’t. I don’t know if you remember your wife in childbirth, but she knew exactly what she needed when she wanted it and when she needed it.

That’s what it’s like when you’re tuned in to yourself and you’re in a big life change. You get super clear on what it is that nourishes you and what it is that doesn’t. I was all about moving toward what was nourishing to me because I also understood my body was going through a huge adrenal adjustment. It was a lot of energy running through me to go through this loss. The other part is that people don’t understand it. When you’re going through a big change, your body has to be strong. There’s body resilience that comes from you taking care of that body so that you can be the vehicle for that change. That’s the way I looked at it.

You said something that I want to repeat. You became clear on how to take care of yourself in part because you created the space and the time to be able to focus and allow for that to become an awareness for you, then present moment awareness. Without that, if you’ve been in busy mode or been trying to get past something you might not have been guided on how you would take supreme care of yourself.

Doing can be as much as anesthesia. It’s a way of anesthetizing yourself as much as drinking alcohol or anything else. We can lose our ability to tune inward. I knew that creating stillness in my life was imperative for me to move through this loss. I couldn’t do it any other way. I always tell people, “Don’t overbusy yourself. Create some time and more spaciousness so that you can have the insights and let the wisdom flow through you and all of that creativity.

PR 260 | Pivoting Through Loss

Pivoting Through Loss: For anybody who’s going through loss or has a great fear of loss, we’re geared to go through these things. You don’t have to be afraid. If you can stay more present in your life, you’ll go through it. At some point, you will wake up one day and life will feel much more normal again.


I wrote a journal that year that became a book and it was called Heartbroken Open. It was my beautiful story of going through loss and the awakening and the discovery of who I am or the discovery of self. It came through that loss. The only reason I was so tuned into it was that I created that quiet time. I watched, observed, and listened to my heart and my soul. I then shared it. It’s an incredible experience. You’re sitting on some of the most fertile ground of your life. It’s the worst time of your life, but it’s also one of the most incredible times. It’s not something we ever say, “Bring it. I want more of that,” but it’s so incredibly rich.

You and I connected probably the moment we sat down next to each other for the first time in that ATL meeting. I’m feeling it again. That soil is so rich and it isn’t what we choose necessarily, but whether it’s God, Spirit, or whatever it is, it’s there for us in a profound way. Thank you for those words. I want to state what you said in a bit of a different way. People are addicted to activity and that’s true. It’s that busyness that can take us away and even distract us from that richness of what’s going on in our lives.

At any point there are things happening in everybody’s life that you could call disruptive or bring up great fear because there’s so much room for interpretation of it being not good. I’m curious about it. The title of your first book is Heartbroken Open. Folks can get it on Amazon or go into a bookstore. Is that the best way to get it?

Interestingly, I’m going to republish it. I’m going to be writing a book called From Heartbreak to Wholeness. Heartbroken Open will come out also. It’s a little story. It got orphaned when it was published, and then they asked me to rewrite it because they wanted more of how to grieve book, but it’s a such beautiful book and it’s helped so many people.

I didn’t want to rewrite it to bring it out in the paper book. It’s so that I could have the rights back. I have the rights back now. I’m in the process of relaunching that book, but it’s a beautiful guide, especially for people that go through sudden a loss or younger widows or widowers. I deal with a lot of the issues that younger people face in grief and loss like that than what people in their older years face. It’s a beautiful book.

PR 260 | Pivoting Through Loss

Pivoting Through Loss: When you’re going through a big change, your body has to be strong. There’s a body resilience that comes from you taking care of that body so that you can be the vehicle for that change.


I’ve worked with a lot of widows and I always say it’s like being a doula. It’s like you’re guiding them to birthing a new life. Transformation is messy. It’s painful at times and chaotic, but if you know there’s going to be something great that comes from it and there’s hope, that’s the thing that gets people through it. It’s knowing that something great’s going to come of it.

I always say to people that I work with, “Your love of life has to be so much bigger. Your love of life is like loving God has to be so much bigger than any one success or loss that you’ll ever have.” When that happens and you can say, “I love life so much that I’m willing to return to joy and be in my life in the most joyous manner,” that’s what loving God is all about. That’s what the expression of life is all about. There’s nothing that gets you through loss bigger than that love.

You guys are also celebrating an anniversary, right?

Thank you so much for being on my show too. That was such a wonderful conversation. It’s been years since Richard wrote the first Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff book. There have 25 million copies have been sold worldwide and even 5 million in the last several years since his death. It’s pretty crazy and awesome. We’re going to be celebrating it. I’m super excited. Thanks for mentioning that.

The first Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff book was about money. I remember where I was reading this and what my life was like. I was a full-on workaholic and commuting into Manhattan to do this attorney work that I despised and knew couldn’t do forever. I came home one night and I told Randi after having another one of those days. I came home late and missed the kids going asleep. It was cold and rainy out. I walked in the door with my wool coat on. I looked at her and said, “If I don’t stop doing what I’m doing, you’re going to be a widow.” Those are my words to her.

She tells this story much more powerful, but we knew then to pivot. A change was something we wanted to create. This book was something that helped me through that time because “What was I thinking? I’m a lawyer. I got houses, cars, four kids, dogs, gerbils, and a goldfish.” That’s a lot of people and things that I’m responsible for. This book gave me not just peace, but it also gave me the ability to be present, think, and have clarity. This is a beautiful book.

I’m going to send you a new one with the new cover.

What a blessing. I love that we’ve become friends and got to know you a bit.

Me, too.

Thank you for joining us. I’m so happy about the relaunch of your book that you’ve got the rights back to do, the new project, and the anniversary of Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff. All of it is so good. What a blessing to have you with us so thank you.

Thank you, Adam. It’s been wonderful. Have a great day.

You, too.


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About Kristine Carlson

PR 260 | Pivoting Through LossKristine is a survivor. A widow. A mother. A grandmother. A wife. A writer and bestselling author, many times over. An empathic mentor for people navigating that exceptionally urgent and poignant time known as middle age. An inspirational speaker and guide for all who desire to practice happiness, live authentically and connect with their most vibrant selves.

Major life changes and transitions can knock us down and make us forget our own strength, and who we truly are at heart and soul. We don’t sweat the small stuff when we are living the big stuff. Kristine’s mission is to help women reclaim their identity and live their next chapter with renewed joy, gratitude, and purpose in the midst of life-altering change. Whatever you’re going through right now, know that she is here for you—to encourage, love, and walk alongside you during this profound and transformative journey as you rediscover who you are now..As you awaken to your highest self.