Episode 60: Grief and Love: Two Sides of the Same Coin with Kimberley Pittman-Schulz
Episode 60: Grief and Love: Two Sides of the Same Coin with Kimberley Pittman-Schulz
On this week’s episode, Alyssa sits down with author Kimberley Pittman-Schulz to talk about one of life’s toughest emotions: grief. Tune in to listen to Kim share her personal experience in losing loved ones. Kimberley sheds light on the grieving process and normalizes the intense pain that we feel in the wake of someone’s death, whether it be a person or a beloved pet. In her new book, Grieving Us, Kim helps us to remember the ways in which we can continue to make meaning in our lives even in the midst of grief.
Alyssa Scolari (00:23]:
Hey, hey, hey, everybody, this is a monumental moment because I am recording the very first episode in our new home, which is so exciting. The walls are pretty empty and pretty bare, but hey, we will get there day by day. This place is starting to feel more and more like a home, so I am really excited for it. I’m also very excited for today’s interview. We have with us a very special guest, Kimberley Pittman-Schulz.
Kimberley is an award-winning poet and author who writes, teaches and speaks about death, living mindfully, and being a force for change in the world. With 25 plus years as a philanthropy leader and charitable and end-of-life planning advisor, Kimberley has worked with incredibly diverse people looking for meaning after the loss of a spouse, a partner, a child, a sibling, a parent, a grandparent, or a beloved animal.
Her focus is helping people cultivate joy every day, so they can more deeply experience the meaning and beauty of their one and only lives. With that being said, hi, Kim. Thank you so much for being here and welcome to the podcast.
Kimberley Pittman-Schulz (01:47]:
Alyssa, thank you so much. I really appreciate the invitation to talk with you and to talk with your listeners. I really admire your podcast and I look forward to this conversation with you.
Alyssa Scolari (01:59]:
Thank you. I’ve been looking forward to this conversation for a while, and I really think that timing is just so interesting to me sometimes. I almost feel like nothing is a coincidence. Speaking of grief, it’s one of those things and I tend to be very open. The listeners know, I tend to be very open about my recovery journey on the podcast. One of the things that I think in light … So I just recently moved.
This is the first podcast episode that I am recording in the new home, which is very exciting. One of the things that I think has come up for me, especially this week, so today is Thursday that we are recording this for the listeners, and I have been in the grief, a pit of grief since probably like Monday it hit me.
I’m starting to come out of it, but to me, grief is one of the things from my perspective that we tend to spend so much of our lives avoiding and running from and finding ways to numb out, because I think it’s one of the most difficult things. What has inspired you to say, “I’m going to take one of the most painful feelings on earth and I’m going to dive right in and I’m going to write about it and share about it.” What inspired you to do that?
Kimberley Pittman-Schulz (03:25]:
Self-punishment maybe? No. To be absolutely honest-
Alyssa Scolari (03:29]:
Kimberley Pittman-Schulz (03:32]:
I think grief, loss, I mean, none of us get out of it alive. Some of us get to live, some of us don’t and those of us that are left behind need to deal with it. Grief is so many things. It’s not even one thing. I mean, you’ve got anger and guilt and regret and longing, and there’re so many emotions bundled up in that. Then there’re so many different grieving styles. For me, part of it was learning to navigate my own grief years ago.
I very much was stuck in a grief hole for two years after my mother died and a friend committed suicide two weeks before she died, so I had these things bundled together. As a child, I survived a house fire that my two sisters sleeping in the same room did not. So for me, this loss and navigating it, my mother could never talk about it. When you’re a little kid and you can’t really talk about what happened to my sisters? What happened to the house? You have to do a lot of figuring out on your own.
When we got into the pandemic, I started just really hearing some people’s pain, what they’re struggling with and feeling like there’s a million systems for getting better, but people were struggling. I thought maybe what has worked for me … And I’ve worked with a lot of people over the years through my philanthropy and end-of-life planning work, practices that have helped them.
I really wanted … And I love to write. I’m also a writer before I’m anything else. For me, it was about trying to help other people navigate grief and whenever you are trying to teach others, let’s face it, you’re also teaching yourself.
Alyssa Scolari (05:03]:
Absolutely. Right. We were just saying that before we started recording, right? Doing all of this, we’re helping others as much as we’re helping ourselves. Right. You are a writer, as I said in the introduction, and you have … I think it’s important to talk about. You have a book out that was just released in March of this year. It was a number one release on Amazon, in several different categories. The name of that book is Grieving Us. Now, is that your first book that you’ve written on grief?
Kimberley Pittman-Schulz (05:36]:
Yes. Yes. It’s the first book I’ve written on grief, and the first book I’ve written other than poetry. My first book was 10 years ago. It was a poetry volume. Interestingly enough, the name of that volume is Mosslight. It was published by a literary publisher and won a national book award actually at that time. When you go back and look at the poems, there is a lot of grief, resilience, navigating loss.
Actually going back and looking at that book and hearing from people who’ve read that book, reminded me that this is just who I am, you know? As we move further through life, I think it has a great focusing effect in helping you figure out, what am I supposed to do? How can I make the most meaning while I’m here on the planet for myself and others?
Alyssa Scolari (06:22]:
Yeah. Yeah. Now, can you give us a brief synopsis of your book? I love the title, Grieving Us. What does that mean?
Kimberley Pittman-Schulz (06:32]:
Right. The subtitle is important too, because it’s based on a question that people ask me all the time. The subtitle is how to live with loss without losing yourself. Because the number one question I often hear is, how do I live with this without losing myself? I feel so lost. Because when someone that’s been a critical part of your life leaves you, now we’re talking about death here, but it can be divorced, it can be all kinds of reasons why somebody is not in your life anymore, you do actually lose part of your life.
There’s a dailiness to the way we love people. I say in the book, love is a habit and how you love people takes shape and rituals and habits and routines, and so when that person is not in your life, your days can literally be broken. It can be hard sometimes for people to pinpoint why they’re having a hard time as they’re moving through grief, starting to find well-being or inviting joy back in.
The synopsis, Grieving Us is really intended to function on a few different levels, because I always say when one person dies, there’s always at least three deaths. There’s the person that you love who’s lost. You cannot help. It is human nature to look at yourself and say, “Wow, I could be next. Am I next?” Or in some cases people say, “Do I want to keep on living?” We do reflect on our own mortality.
Then the relationship you had with that person is like a third party, if you will, because that is also gone and you have to hold onto that person in a different way. Then for me, there’s another sort of level of meaning and that my husband has in, his end of lifetime. I’m living with my own anticipatory grief and trying to live with joy and grieving at the same time. It has a large context as well as very personal context for me, Alyssa.
Alyssa Scolari (08:24]:
Yes. I really appreciate what you said about the joy and the grief and that I think so many of us fall into a place of suffering partially because we feel that they’re polar opposites and can’t coexist, but I think it’s very important to know that both can be there.
Kimberley Pittman-Schulz (08:49]:
For me, it’s a basic premise. It can sound hokey or corny or naive to say, “Oh, yeah. Right. Grief and joy coexist.” But I’ve discovered that that’s just true. The question is how do you get there? Because so often, Alyssa, and I’m sure you hear it in the clients that you work with, I’ve got to get through grief to joy. As if joy is a destination.
I was having this conversation with someone recently, and it just bubbled out of my mouth and I thought, “Wow, that’s kind of true.” Is that joy is not a destination. It’s really a dimension. Part of what I teach in my book, I start by having people tell their loss story to themselves because often we tell our loss stories to everybody but ourselves.
Then the next step, and what was really the healing aha moment for me is what I’ve come to call tiny come back to your senses rituals. It’s creating … I started with just literally a few minutes, like three minutes where I just created an opening in the grief and for that moment, I was just so fully in the moment. I mean, I could tell you a little bit more about the process, but the idea was that I had created a break in my grief through this ritual that allowed a little bit of joy.
When I say joy, I want to maybe define that a little bit too, because there’s happy, right? Riding a rollercoaster makes you happy, but we say makes you happy because we know that’s transient, right? A little bit later, we’re looking for something else to make us happy. For me, joy is related, but it is a different thing. It’s about knowing you’re meant to be here. It’s about being in this moment.
Right now I’m having this wonderful conversation with you and getting a chance to meet with you and talk with you about this and to be fully immersed in this moment and have it have a sense of meaning and purpose. Just knowing that no matter what else is going on in my life or the rest of the day, everything’s okay right in this moment. To me, that’s a big part of what joy is and it is there, ever-present.
It’s just creating that break in the grief to be able to let the light of that come in and root and grow. Then the goal is as we move through grief to just make those breaks bigger and let a little bit more joy in.
Alyssa Scolari (10:56]:
When you say the break in the grief, you get that break in the grief through what you call the tiny come back to your senses rituals, is that correct?
Kimberley Pittman-Schulz (11:07]:
Yes. Yes. Yeah. I stumbled into it, Alyssa, really by accident. I mean, I was in this … What turned out to be a little over two-year period of being what I call lost limbo after my mother died and Ruth had committed suicide and these were just so linked together. They’re still linked together in my life and in my grief and in my sense of loss. We had moved across country from where I had lost my mother and happened to live on a stretch that had some river frontage.
I remember one of the things that happens when you’re grieving, right? I’m sure you’ve experienced this through all of your own healing from trauma, is how broken some of your habits and rituals get. There’s always a few things that you still do. For instance, I will always make a cup of tea in the morning, no matter what. I mean, the world could be burning. I’m going to have my cup of tea, right? Well-
Alyssa Scolari (11:07]:
You’re having that tea. Yep.
Kimberley Pittman-Schulz (11:54]:
Yeah. Exactly. Well, at that point in my life, also, before I went to bed, no matter what, I always locked the doors. One night before I locked the doors, I decided to just wander out to the river. I walked out to the river and I stood at the edge of the river and I just listened to the water. I don’t know if you’ve had this experience, Alyssa, or some of your listeners, sometimes the movement of water over rocks can almost even sound like voices and you think, “Is there someone upstream?”
It really isn’t. It’s just literally the voice of the water and the volume of it going through and over the rocks. Then you hear a bird shuffling, it’s quietly in a tree, there’s a little bit of fog coming in. I was really feeling the sensation of the fog on my arms. As I turned to walk back in the house, it suddenly just on me, in that little space, just a few minutes I didn’t feel awful. I didn’t feel awful.
I felt okay, and so as I came back in and I locked the door, I realized I was onto something. I began to then intentionally build some of these grief rituals into habits that were already working because I think that’s the hard type thing, is people will say, “Go do X or go do Y.” It’s like, “How do I do it?” If you have to find that one or two things in your day that actually works, you can add on.
Start with just three minutes and even the busiest or most burdened people can find usually that three minutes.
Alyssa Scolari (13:16]:
Yes. I so appreciate that, and coming off the heels of feeling such intense grief the last several days, I know that for me, it’s one of those things you can’t snap out of it. There’s no like, “I’m going to snap out of this.” No. For me, the transformation happened in the 30 seconds that it took me to go online and book an appointment for myself and I noticed that while I was doing that, I was okay. I was okay.
I had my diffuser on, the air smelled really nice. I had a blanket on, my dog was curled up next to me. I was like … It took me 30 seconds, but after those 30 seconds, I went, “Oh, I didn’t feel like my world was crashing down around me for 30 seconds.” To me, that’s the process. More than like, “Oh, well, today I had a great day. I did this. I did that. I’m so happy. Thank God I’m not in that bad place anymore.” It’s like, it doesn’t really work like that.
Kimberley Pittman-Schulz (14:23]:
No. You can have a day that’s really crappy but instead of having a day that’s crappy all day, to have a few moments like that, where you really are getting a break and you really are feeling like, “Okay. I’m not going to take on the universe here and I’m not the best I’ve ever been, wow. I got a break for a little bit.” That to my mind is where it all starts.
Alyssa Scolari (14:44]:
Yeah. I also love what you said about your journey to the river, because I relate to that so much. I think that I first started tapping into this enormous wave of grief back in early June when we went to the Finger Lakes and we were on vacation.
It was my first time I went to the Finger Lakes and just sitting on the water and hearing the water splash up against the rocks and looking at the fish swimming in the water, I was like … I find that my grief can be healed or at least not healed, but understood and I can get some relief from it in nature, particularly in the water, like near water.
Kimberley Pittman-Schulz (15:32]:
Yeah. I would share that. I’m a nature geek anyway so it certainly works for me. I’ve had people say to me though, “Kimberley, I’m just not a nature type so this isn’t going to work for me.” I would say, “No.” I’ve worked with a number of people to implement something that works for them. One woman I used to work with, a colleague had … I think it was her brother that she had lost.
She was talking about every night she would get through the day, she’s what I call a hummingbird griever. She was able to keep going through it. Some of us want to be like bears and go in a cave and just leave me alone until I feel better. Others are what I call hummingbirds. They just keep doing, doing, doing, doing, trying to keep ahead of the grief, right?
Alyssa Scolari (16:11]:
Kimberley Pittman-Schulz (16:11]:
She would get home at the end of the day she said, “I’m just crying into my Chardonnay every night. It’s just that I’m drinking too much of it too, to be absolutely honest. I don’t know where I would put …” I said, “You know what? Why don’t you start your tiny come back to your senses ritual around that glass of wine?” She says, “Okay. Well, I get the taste and I can try to remember to smell.” She said, “But how do you hear wine?” I said, “Tap on the edge of the glass.”
Alyssa Scolari (16:35]:
Oh, yeah. Tap.
Kimberley Pittman-Schulz (16:36]:
“Or listen to the sound of it going down your throat. I mean, just be very, very mindful. Try to use all five senses when you drink that glass of wine.” It was several months later I ran into her and she goes, “I thought what you said was kind of crazy, but you know what? It slowed me down. I actually enjoyed my glass of wine more.” She said, “I’m not drinking as much of it.” For her, she had what she called her wine time.
That was her tiny come back to her senses rituals, was just really experiencing the entire glass of wine with all of her senses. Sometimes it takes a little creativity to figure out what works. That’s what I love about what I’ve tried to teach, is that this isn’t take what works for me now you have to make it work, because you’re a different person. But you can take the concept and adapt it to what’s meaningful for you.
Alyssa Scolari (17:21]:
Exactly. Exactly. I love that. Now, I want to shift gears a little bit because I really want to dive into this. Can we talk about animals for a moment? Because … And, oh dear Lord, if I get through this conversation without shedding one tear, that will be a huge victory because animals, I love. I have three dogs. All animals, I am a huge animal lover.
I really think that this is important to talk about because I can’t tell you how many people come into my office and have lost pets and are absolutely devastated beyond belief, but feel as though they shouldn’t. This is not an uncommon thing. So many people feel that losing pets can be harder in some ways than losing people.
So many people, myself included, I will watch TV and I will watch true crime documentaries all day long, but let me tell you, if there is one episode where an animal is harmed or killed, I’m done. Done. I’m not alone. I know I’m not alone in that. Is that something that you can talk more about? Is there a reason why it feels so much harder?
Kimberley Pittman-Schulz (18:52]:
Oh my gosh, Alyssa, I am just-
Alyssa Scolari (18:55]:
I know, that was a lot.
Kimberley Pittman-Schulz (18:56]:
… so simpatico, but no, I mean, I feel exactly every word that you just said. So many people I’ve known and worked with, I feel the same way. Early in my life I worked with UC Davis School of Veterinary medicine. It was the first veterinary school to actually create a pet loss support hotline because helping veterinarians learn how to deal with the grief that their patients had over a pet was such a big issue. Veterinarians did not handle it.
About a year ago I gave a talk on death to estate and financial planners who are focused on helping people plan for the end of life, but never want to talk about death. Pets are huge for people. It certainly depends. In my book I tell a story about after my dog died, technically he was my stepdad because it came with my husband like a dowry, right? The person-
Alyssa Scolari (18:56]:
Oh, what kind of dog?
Kimberley Pittman-Schulz (19:46]:
Yeah. It was a mutt, Heinz 57, but he was really cute, really sweet. We walked together, did a lot together. After he died someone in the community ran into me and said, “Oh, well, at least it’s a dog. You can get another.” I am not a violent person, Alyssa, but I really … The vision went through my head of really smacking her [inaudible 00:20:05] just because it wasn’t just a dog or just … I mean, you wouldn’t say that if somebody lost a child or a spouse.
For me, part of what I think can be in some ways … And this is why I do think some people … I have a friend who lost her father and a dog within a few weeks of each other. She says, “Of course I miss my father. He was 94. I spent the last few months caring for him.” She goes, “I have to admit, the dog is actually way harder. It was a rescue dog. It had been doing great and then something just suddenly came up and it was gone.”
I think one of the things you don’t hear people talk a lot about is the dailiness of people and animals in our lives. Animals are often … Spouses may come and go to work, partners may come and go, kids come and go, but often those dogs or cats, like right now, I’m a cat lady. We have kittens, or technically cats, but they’re still kittens to me. It’s-
Alyssa Scolari (20:58]:
Kimberley Pittman-Schulz (20:59]:
… always kittens. Yeah.
Alyssa Scolari (20:59]:
They’ll always be kittens.
Kimberley Pittman-Schulz (21:00]:
Yeah. You have this dailiness of like this morning just brushing my hair. The cat’s on the counter in the bathroom watching me brush my hair. We have little things that we do. Little habits together, and so throughout the day they’re an intimate part of my daily life. When you lose a companion animal, again, you have all those little gaps that you have to learn to bridge because that being isn’t there.
Let’s face it, animals love us no matter what we look like or act like. I mean, unless we’re abusive people, I mean, it’s truly the most unconditional love you’re going to find.
Alyssa Scolari (21:41]:
It is, and even, you know what? Sometimes even if people are abusive, an animal will still look at you and beg for love and attention and affection. It is the most-
Kimberley Pittman-Schulz (21:52]:
Alyssa Scolari (21:52]:
… unconditional love that I think I’ve ever experienced. I’m thinking of this morning as we’re having this conversation. We moved into this new house and we used to, in our old house, because we had carpet upstairs, we kept the dogs downstairs. Didn’t let them upstairs. They weren’t in the bedroom. We don’t have carpet in this house and the dogs are upstairs, downstairs. They’re everywhere. Everywhere I go I’m tripping over a dog.
This morning, I opened my eyes, my eyes popped open suddenly and I see … I have two Australian shepherds. One of my Australian shepherds, he is two years old. His head was resting on the bed and he was making direct eye contact with me and grinning from ear to ear. I could see all his teeth. He was so happy. He was just staring at me, waiting for me to get up.
As soon as I opened my eyes, he was like, “Mom, hi, let’s get up. I love you. You look beautiful. No, your breath doesn’t stink.” As I’m breathing my morning breath on him. I’m just like, those are the moments that are unparalleled. Unparalleled.
Kimberley Pittman-Schulz (23:13]:
Well, there’s nothing quite like dog love like that. I mean, there isn’t. Someday when that beautiful little being is not a physical presence, you’re going to continue to have that wonderful emotional presence. You just don’t forget it.
Alyssa Scolari (23:33]:
Kimberley Pittman-Schulz (23:33]:
Again, that dailiness, I mean, other people in your life except maybe a spouse, partner or kids, who else fills that kind of a role? I mean, it’s just a very … And if you are, as I am, an animal person … And what’s tough is when animal people then are experiencing losses around people who aren’t and don’t get it. What I usually say to people is resist the temptation to let that be a burden to you or be frustrated or angry, because that’s just more emotion on top of grief.
It’s better just to let it go and just know that’s their loss and just focus on caring for yourself. The problem is a lot of times people are made to feel like they’re grieving wrong. That’s true with humans too. Particularly with animals, people can be made to feel like they’re wrong or weird. I’m just here to say, no, you’re not.
Again, if you didn’t love, gosh darn it, it wouldn’t be a problem, but you love so when you lose that physical presence of someone you love, whether that someone has four legs, fur and a tail, it’s going to hurt.
Alyssa Scolari (24:35]:
Excruciating. Excruciating grief. Yeah. I think that that’s a huge problem, is that people are in their grief, but then they’re also made to feel somewhat guilty or a little bit weird for the grief that they have. I remember when I got my dog, I have a little dog. I got her … She was born six days after I escaped from an abusive relationship. I got out of his house on July 14th and she was born six days later.
Two months after that, I had her. I had no idea I was getting a dog. She found me. I swear to this day the gods created her because they were like, “All right, she’s going to need some love.” Have her. Two days ago, she turned eight. I remember when I first got her, when I tell you I’m enamored with this dog and was, people would say things to me like, “Don’t you love her a little too much?” Or like, would say things like-
Kimberley Pittman-Schulz (25:52]:
Oh my gosh. How is that even possible?
Alyssa Scolari (25:53]:
Right? How is that even possible? Or my favorite was like, “I know you love your dog, but you do know your dog’s going to die eventually, right? You got to separate a little bit.” I-
Kimberley Pittman-Schulz (26:06]:
It’s like, well, I know you’re going to guide too, but hey, you know?
Alyssa Scolari (26:08]:
Well, I felt like, “Yeah. Well, yeah.”
Kimberley Pittman-Schulz (26:08]:
Alyssa Scolari (26:12]:
[crosstalk 00:26:12] less now that you said that. Yeah. These are the kinds of things that we say. Like for people who are avid pet lovers or people who have lost a pet, it’s like, “Oh, you just get another one.” It’s like, so now on top of our grief, we feel guilt for the love that we have.
Kimberley Pittman-Schulz (26:33]:
Guilt or like we’re stupid or weird or abnormal, and that’s just no good at all. I mean, it’s just no good at all. There’re so many other ways too, through grief that people feel that way. I’ll take anybody who loves and grieves any day, over someone who surprisingly doesn’t love that much and so they don’t have to navigate that grief journey as much.
Alyssa Scolari (26:57]:
Yes. I don’t remember who said this, but I remember I heard this quote and this is one of my favorite books is David Kessler, The Sixth Stage of Grief. Finding Meaning. A phenomenal book for the listeners out there. I know I’ve recommended it multiple times on this podcast, but he talked a lot about how grief yes, there is a way to avoid grief, but the way to avoid grief is to avoid love. You can’t avoid one without the other, without avoiding the other.
Kimberley Pittman-Schulz (27:32]:
It’s like two sides of the same coin, really. I mean, absolutely. The whole issue of meaning too is really important because I feel like when you talk about human beings, what makes human beings different than a lot of other animals. As a kid I grew up and the answer was always opposable thumbs, you know? Right? Because we can grasp things with our opposable thumbs, but I really think it’s actually meaning making is our super power as human beings, because it allows us to grasp things with our minds.
That means you can really assign meaning where you want it. You get to choose what’s meaningful to you. That can be who you love. It can be how you grieve. In my book I tell a story about that I can teach my cat to know the word dragonfly. I have a pond in my yard, so I can say dragonfly and the cat knows I’m referring to that thing that she’d love to catch going back and forth above the pond. What I can’t teach her to do is what I do when I see a dragonfly, it is tied to my mother.
When I see a dragonfly, I’m also thinking of my mother. I asked myself, “Could I ever teach my cat a word that when she saw the thing she could equate it, not only to the thing in the physical world, but to a memory of her own mother as a kitten?” I was like, “I don’t think I can.” That is, I think … And I know David also talks about things like this in his book.
This whole idea of meaning is ultimately I think how we move through grief and get to a better place of well-being, and even defining what joy means and how we make more of that in our lives comes through our ability that we get to say what’s meaningful.
Alyssa Scolari (29:07]:
Yeah. Yes. Finding meaning is so helpful. Does that for you, from your perspective, fall into the same category as helping others, finding meaning also with helping others? Because I know you talked about how much helping others can be hugely impactful in the grieving process.
Kimberley Pittman-Schulz (29:31]:
To me, they’re tied at the hip. I mean, certainly for me personally. Sometimes when I think about I spent a lot of my career working in philanthropy with people, we don’t often think about this. Even people who work in philanthropy often, unless you stop and really think about it, so much of philanthropy, so much of giving back, whether that’s a financial contribution or volunteering or random acts of kindness, when you drill down to what motivates a person to do those things, what you often realize-
Alyssa Scolari (30:00]:
I just saw a cat.
Kimberley Pittman-Schulz (30:03]:
I couldn’t make her stay out so it’s just I thought rather than having her paw at the door, it’d be easier just to let her be.
Alyssa Scolari (30:09]:
Oh, I love it.
Kimberley Pittman-Schulz (30:10]:
I woke her up talking about animals or something. I just feel like as we move through our grief and our healing process and we think about what’s meaningful … And so for me, what I realized is a lot of that motivation to give back and help others in any sort of way, often does come from a place of loss and of trying to … One of the things you can’t … Like when I talk about meaning, people will say, “Do you mean I’m supposed to believe that someone’s death, there’s meaning to that, or it was done for a reason?”
I said, “Well, you have to decide if that’s what you believe.” I personally don’t think somebody died because it was the thing that was supposed to happen. That’s my personal belief system. For some people they really do believe that death is part of a plan. I think again, each person has to find their way there.
What I do believe is that when we start to think about giving of ourselves, it not only makes us feel good to be helping others, it not only creates a little bit of a break and a distraction in pain, but it does make a difference in other people’s lives. So much of the giving impulse does come from a place of pain.
I’ve sat with many individuals, volunteers, donors, people involved at doing frontline charitable work, hospice volunteers and nurses, how much of that motivation comes from a place of pain and trying to make some meaning for them by helping others.
Alyssa Scolari (31:38]:
Yeah. Absolutely. Right? Even therapists. Right?
Kimberley Pittman-Schulz (31:43]:
Yep. And podcast hosts.
Alyssa Scolari (31:46]:
Podcast hosts, writers, right? People aren’t writing about this stuff because it’s coming from a place of joy and never having lived or experienced. People are writing from their own pain or working or whatever it is they do, volunteering, coming from a place of their own pain.
Kimberley Pittman-Schulz (32:06]:
Definitely. No. Definitely. I think even small … We tend to think of random acts of kindness as being goody two-shoes or Pollyanna or something like that, or maybe even sounding hokey. But to be absolutely honest, that’s a strategy I often suggest.
I was literally writing a post that I’ll be posting later about this very topic, that when I talk with people who are struggling with grief, a lot of times they’ve lost that sense of meaning and purpose in their lives without their beloved other, whoever that, or whatever creature that may be, a person or animal, whatever.
I really want people to realize that they have a heartbroken, but still beautiful life. I hate for people to sort of give away their life. It takes time. I’m not saying just get over it. That’s not what I’m saying at all. But to take the time to realize you are going to have to build a new life, which means creating a new version of you that didn’t exist before.
I mean, you didn’t ask for this giant change in your life, it has happened to you, right? You’ve got to create something new out of that. Finding a way to give back in small ways and realizing how often you have done or other people have done to you, generous things. Whether it’s paying for someone’s coffee in line behind you, or just a nice word or a nice compliment that you may think is completely offhand that can make a huge difference from somebody. You never know.
There are times, years later when I’ll run into somebody and they’ll say, “Back in so-and-so you said this to me, and I can’t tell you what a difference it makes.” I’m sitting there thinking, “I said that?” I was like, “Yeah, it sounds like something I would say, but I don’t even remember what they’re talking about.” It’s so important to realize that as long as you’re physically in this world and you can’t help but take up space, you are going to impact others.
One of the choices you can make is to be a little more intentional about that. When you’re first putting those very first feelers out from that place of grief, trying to find some ground, starting with something as simple as a compliment to somebody or some truly … What seems like random is really not random at all act of kindness to somebody else, is going to actually make you feel pretty good. Again, it’s like your 30 seconds this morning. In that space, everything was okay.
Alyssa Scolari (34:23]:
Absolutely. Absolutely. In that space everything was okay. When I woke up this morning and opened my eyes and saw a big hairy dog smiling at me, I was like, “Everything’s fine. Everything’s fine.” I love it. Thank you. Much for sharing. Now, of course, if people would like to find your book or have questions or want to purchase your book, where’s the easiest way? Is it via Amazon?
Kimberley Pittman-Schulz (34:53]:
Well, of course Amazon sells about 72% of the planet’s books, so yes, you’ll find all versions of my books there. I also encourage people to work with their local bookseller who can order just about anything on the planet as well and you’re buying local as well. I also have a website as well, website link. In fact, I set up a landing page for your listeners. My website is poetowl.com.
There’s just a slash light after trauma and so they can go and they’ll see your podcast cover and not feel like they’re going to a stranger’s house. They can click on a link and get the book there, or explore some other information that’s there as well. I’m in the process of putting together a workshop. There are some other resources there that I’m building out.
Alyssa Scolari (35:38]:
Fantastic. That’s so poetowl.com/lightaftertrauma.
Kimberley Pittman-Schulz (35:44]:
Alyssa Scolari (35:45]:
Ooh. All right. To the listeners-
Kimberley Pittman-Schulz (35:45]:
Yeah. I was like-
Alyssa Scolari (35:47]:
… I’m there now. This is, ooh, such a lovely page. What I will do, so for the listeners out there, I will be linking that in the show notes so you know where to go. Please check that out. I cannot wait to read this book because it just sounds phenomenal. Thank you so much for coming on the show today. Thank you for sharing your expertise, for being vulnerable.
I know this is tough to talk about, but you’re doing the hard work. You’re really doing some of the hardest work, I believe, on the planet. Thank you so much for your time.
Kimberley Pittman-Schulz (36:25]:
Thank you, Alyssa, too. Really we’re all going to have to do the hard work.
Alyssa Scolari (36:30]:
So true. So true. Thanks for listening, everyone. For more information, please head over to lightaftertrauma.com or you can also follow us on social media. On Instagram we are @lightaftertrauma and on Twitter it is @lightafterpod. Lastly, please head over to patreon.com/lightaftertrauma to support our show. We are asking for $5 a month, which is the equivalent to a cup of coffee at Starbucks. Please head on over again. That’s patreon.com/lightaftertrauma. Thank you we appreciate your support.