Returning from Grief to Gratitude

Kahil Gibran says in his tome The Prophet, “Your greatest joy is your sorrow unmasked.”

These seven words spoke to me and whispered hope in my ear as I weathered the tsunami of grief that came after my husband Richard’s transition. I died a death when he did. According to my angel guides, my human transition has taken quite awhile.

There’s nothing quite as painful as heartbreak, and when it comes through the corridor of loss, it takes people varying amounts of time to heal. There isn’t a yellow brick road you follow.

It’s a process and a journey of healing and mending a broken heart that is filled with sorrow–sorrow that leaks through the cracks of a shattered life, while spilling out the tears of a thousand years.

About three months after Richard’s memorial, I attended a book launch party for a dear friend, Mike Robbins. Richard had finished the foreword to Mike’s first book just three weeks before he died. I felt obligated to attend “the party” on Richard’s behalf. As happy as I wanted to feel for our friend, I was hardly ready to celebrate anything that resembled my previous life that had all too fleetingly been pulled right out from under my feet.

It felt more like a public assault when people who knew me and knew our story looked my way. I’m sure it was only because I felt naked and raw that I felt so exposed to their gaze.

People mean well when they say things to you, but often hearing no words is better comfort to someone grief-stricken than hearing the wrong words.

A man approached me and told me I looked beautiful. Something about tears must be anti-aging; crying does boost the immune system. For some reason the more I cried, the younger I appeared that first year. The man said, “You know, you are very lucky to have lived such a great love with Richard in your life time. You should be very grateful.”

I stared in blank disbelief as if he had slapped my face. Then, he proceeded with the usual and awkward, “I’m sorry for your loss.”

My response: “What do you mean? Loss? I didn’t lose my car keys. My life was annihilated. I’m sorry, but I don’t feel grateful. I feel devastated.”

I walked away and found a post to lean on outside on a stairwell in the fresh air.

As soon as he said the word “grateful,” I knew I felt anything but gratitude for the pain I was experiencing, and I resented him for saying so. I wasn’t sure I would ever feel grateful for having the kind of love that held so much pain to lose.

In time, I changed. And so did my attitude.

I healed by repeating a mantra: “Surrender, trust and accept.” These three words became the lighthouse in the waves of grief that came and went like the tides in stormy seas.

In essence, the Serenity prayer says: find the courage to change what you can, the acceptance for what you cannot change and the wisdom to know the difference.

I don’t consider that the acceptance of my loss was the ending point to grief, but rather the portal to living more life. When I accepted my loss, I began to embrace and step into a new life—one walking solo but not alone.

One that made me feel like new a fawn with wobbling legs, and I began to question everything.

That’s when I decided mid-life is not a crisis unless you are in one. It is a time of inquiry: “Who am I now?”

Years later, it’s been quite a remarkable journey of self discovery,with lots of twists and turns, and blessings too.

Now, I’ve returned to a deep feeling of gratitude for having loved so honestly, purely and with true and lasting fulfillment. People ask me if I’ll remarry and my response is, “I don’t know. My cup is more than half-filled with enough love from Richard to potentially last my lifetime.”

I am truly grateful for having loved so deeply that I know now I am better for it. I would do it all over again for the same soul contract because loving Richard and being loved by him were, indeed, worth the heartbreak–worth the loss and every tear.

Gratitude and noticing all the great things in your life, both past and present, is great salve for a broken heart. The beauty of a broken heart mended is the expansion of compassion that ensues upon its healing. My compassion for humanity grew ten-fold for having gone through loss. I’ve survived and chosen to thrive. My ability to experience joy grew, as Kahil Gibran promised.

Your heart will be broken open to more than you can possibly imagine. The depth that you feel your sorrow is the depth that you will feel your joy. My tears for both are equal now.

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By | 2017-06-20T19:42:14+00:00 June 21st, 2017|Living The Big Stuff|34 Comments


  1. Brin September 10, 2015 at 6:35 am - Reply

    Thank you for this lovely article. I lost my husband in Dec 2011. And every word you have written is an echo from my heart too.
    Thank you again.

    • Kristine Carlson September 10, 2015 at 6:54 am - Reply

      You are so welcome, Brin! Much love on the journey–soul sisters. love, Kris

  2. Sandra September 10, 2015 at 7:16 am - Reply

    The 17th will be 12 years since my 17 year old son died in my arms. I can tell you that I am so grateful today for all the gifts I was given from his birth to his death. I was truly blessed to be given the gift of my beautiful son for 17 years. What a blessing it is to know he is okay now. He had AML (leukemia) Got it at 17 years of age, died nine months later. To feel the greatest pain I ever felt, is now a gift that I share with others that are going through a loss. Thank you Kristine, I love your writings, as they help me to look at different things with a new set of eyes. Bless you!

    • Kristine Carlson September 10, 2015 at 7:18 am - Reply

      YOU are so welcome, Sandra…many blessings to you dear one–for any one that loses a child and can return to life–you are a marvelous being! Much love on the journey, Kris

  3. Colleen September 10, 2015 at 7:18 am - Reply

    “The beauty of a broken heart mended is the expansion of compassion that ensues upon its healing…………..” I’ve known loss and you have written from the depths of your heart and your soul and you have touched me. I am so grateful that Robin shared this with us. Bless you. Thank you.

    • Kristine Carlson September 10, 2015 at 7:20 am - Reply

      Thank you, Colleen. I am so honored that you have commented so kindly and lovingly. Blessed be our journey that we don’t have to go it alone—love, Kris

  4. Radhikabedasie Bedasie September 10, 2015 at 7:33 am - Reply

    I lost a loved one in 2013 and felt the same emotions that you shared in this article …….
    I am moving on with my life hovever , that deep connection and love that we shared is so strong and unforgettable …enough to last a lifetime. Tks

  5. Shalabh September 10, 2015 at 7:38 am - Reply

    Beautiful…..very touching….I know what lost painful it can be when you loose soneone who is very near and dear to you….Thanks Kristine as well as Thanks to Robin (Sharma) for sharing this.

  6. Victoria Morris-Ott September 10, 2015 at 7:59 am - Reply

    I feel humbled, reading about the losses of others. My loss is small but traumatic just the same. My husband of over 20 years has ‘dalliances’ — we lived in China for many years. He would get, to my mind at least, inappropriately close to his students. No, no sex but lots of “I love you” messages. Even he admits some crossed the line.

    I believed our love was different. That it would be playful and heartfelt forever. We are still together but my love has died. I as trying to find my way back.

  7. caro September 10, 2015 at 8:01 am - Reply

    Thanks for sharing! Thanks. I believe we grow more when we can share.
    And there are brave hearts the ones who can open their harts in a lovely way.

    • Kristine Carlson September 10, 2015 at 8:23 am - Reply

      Absolutely true…we are called to share from our heart to help others move forward!
      Treasure the gifts of life and love,

  8. Piush Jha September 10, 2015 at 8:04 am - Reply

    “When I accepted my loss, I began to embrace and step into a new life—one walking solo but not alone.”

    I had never heard about Richard or you before reading Robin’s post on Facebook. Now, after going through your enlightening perspective borne out by expressions like the one quoted above, there’s no way I’ll ever forget either of you.

    Robin is an inspiration; You must be one too, as he mentions so truly about you. From one of your posts, we know you’re still going through challenges of your own, yet taking time and effort to connect with everyone who looks up to you.

    If that isn’t a life fulfilled, what else is? Thank You, Kristine! May you always get Richard’s undivided love, as none deserves it more.

    • Kristine Carlson September 10, 2015 at 8:22 am - Reply

      Thank you, Piush! Much love on the journey-Kris

  9. Wendi Knox September 10, 2015 at 8:42 am - Reply

    Kris, thank you for sharing your truth so deeply. What helps me during the grief-laden journey I’ve been on with a loved one’s addiction is to spend time in nature. The continuing cycle of shedding and growing gives me hope. I am learning to trust all the beautiful possibilities that can grow out of the emptiness. With much love and appreciation for all the light you are shining in this world.

    • Kristine Carlson September 10, 2015 at 8:45 am - Reply

      Thanks, Wendy. I so appreciate this comment from a Goddess of love as YOU! Many blessings as you surrender to healing…
      love on the journey—nature is soooo good for the soul! Love, Kris

  10. natalie September 10, 2015 at 8:46 am - Reply

    Thank you for sharing this Kris, I read your book on grief, a few weeks after I lost my cousin Joanne to breast cancer, it was very empowering to know that I was not alone in feeling what I felt, because her loss for me was so sudden. But I too learned to surrender

    • Kristine Carlson September 10, 2015 at 8:50 am - Reply

      Much love to you, Natalie.
      Surrender is such an important aspect of healing and letting go.
      Thanks for your kind comment!

  11. Ankalesh Wani September 10, 2015 at 10:46 am - Reply

    Hello, Kristine, ma’am. I have read the above article of yours for the first time. Before it, I was entirely unknown to you. It is because of Robin Sir that I got a chance to read the same as he recommended this post to be read on his Facebook page. You have kindled the burning flames into conflagration. Sometimes we think that we should grow pragmatic and move on in life by forgetting the past loss and accept the future. But it is simply impossible for the sensitive heart. We simply cannot do that. I am very young to put my thought which I must accept. Nevertheless, I too would like to share a life-shattering moment of my life. I too could not do anything when my beloved disappeared from my life. All I could do was watching her silently going in someone’s life;far from me. She was married without her consent by her family. She had attempted to commit suicide for three times but fortunately she could survive. After that she had promised me that she would never indulge in such type of activity. She is no longer in touch with me now. She had married before three years. She probably must have had children, if alive. If she comes back to me, I think, I would accept her. But she had promised me that she would always be in my touch, no matter what. She hasn’t contacted me since she got married. I doubt whether she is alive or dead. I still miss her and I still do love her. I wish she comes back to me to make me smile again. I loved her enough to let her go. But I was wrong and the biggest fool to do that. The gone thing never comes back. All I can do is pretend and give a fake smile to the people around. This was just a small, or perhaps, even the smallest part of my life which caused me great pain and agony. But your loss can never be recovered. And I, indeed, have no words to express my grief or sympathy for you. I am just ineffable.

    • Kristine Carlson September 10, 2015 at 11:32 am - Reply

      Dear Ankalesh,
      I can sense you are heartbroken. I know it can be more difficult to express these things, sometimes, as a man. I would encourage you to allow all of your tears and anger to be released into forgiveness. If you can forgive then you will be able to let go. You deserve love again and your loss has the ability to open you to greater love if you allow it to. I wish you so much luck as you live and let go. Choose love over all things…and all will be well.
      Treasure the gifts of life and love,

  12. Rachael September 10, 2015 at 12:34 pm - Reply

    Dear Kris,

    Thank you for sharing part of your life.I can also relate to this that was in July 2011, I lost my husband .I remember reporting back for work, my students did not know what to say to me, I felt exposed, I thought I was ready to return to my normal routine but I wasn’t. We cry
    differently I had to accept what was then though not easy.

    Thankyou for being brave enough to share your experience, its so empowering

    Wishing you all the best

    • Kristine Carlson September 10, 2015 at 12:42 pm - Reply

      Dear Rachael,
      Thanks for sharing your experience as well. There’s is so much love on this journey and we are joined in our losses even more, sometimes, than our joys. Much love to you as you continue to move forward, my dear. Love, Kris

  13. Mary Vesey September 10, 2015 at 2:02 pm - Reply

    Beautifully said!! You have the ability to put into words exactly how it felt for me in my raw early stages of grief. I was completely transformed through my process and could not have survived it without the help from teachers like you! I was a devout catholic and my grief process expanded my spiritual growth at an alarming rate. You helped me to stay grounded and trust the process. I too have found my way back to gratitude! Thank you Kris!

    • Kristine Carlson September 10, 2015 at 2:42 pm - Reply

      Mary- you are my one liner laugh in a lot of my speeches–Mary said:”This transformation stuff isn’t easy. It was a whole lot easier being Catholic.” Love you!

  14. Bernadette Vella navarra September 10, 2015 at 2:45 pm - Reply

    my Dear Kristina you have hit a raw nerve when you described how you felt when you lost your husband . I can relate to every word you said. Lost my husband 14 july 2014 and still my heart aches so much as if it was yesterday. . Known Austin since we were 12 but our, lives took us in seperate ways . Our paths crossed again 13 years ago and rekindle our friendship . Stayed in touch until we met again January 2008. . Friendship turned to romance and it was the best years of our life. You can say after few failed relationships we found our soulmate. But it was not meant to last ! Married Jauary 2011 ; diagnose with cancer Aprri 2012. . We felt cheated but we knew we had to except our faith and live to its fullest while we could. And we did! I have so many fond memories during that short period of our life and that’s what sustains me . I’m glad he was photo mad and vidio mad because I can still hiear his laugh when I watch one of his short videos. Now I feel as if I’ m in limbo and live from one day at a time . Stuck with this grieve that no one can understand until I read your article . I thank you for sharing your story and may God Bless you and your family. Regards Bernadette.

    • Kristine Carlson September 10, 2015 at 2:57 pm - Reply

      Dear Bernadette,
      Thank you so much for sharing. I know it is a difficult passage to accept a loss as yours that was early in it’s stages of fulfillment. Many blessings to you, my dear. My prayer for you is that you empty, forgive, let go and love again. Much love on the journey…Kris

  15. Kristina Morgan September 10, 2015 at 6:32 pm - Reply

    Your blog and story brings hope to my broken heart, and what feels like a directionless life, as I lost my husband just 12 short weeks ago. Thank you for sharing your story and providing a glimpse of light in such a dark time.

    • Kristine Carlson September 10, 2015 at 6:37 pm - Reply

      Oh boy—hang in there. You are in the shock-numb-I don’t know what destroyed my life state! It’s a journey home, sweetheart. Call on all the support you need right now. Much love—on the journey—hang in there. Love, Kris

  16. Nicole Sobeiring September 10, 2015 at 6:53 pm - Reply

    Hi Kristine,
    Thanks for this great article. This was pretty much how I felt too during my grief.
    Lately I’ve been thinking of the early days of my husband’s passing and how far I’ve come. I think it may have to do with my daughter, Cheyenne’s graduation from high school and then today she started her first day of university. I had a little cry as I wished her dad was here to see what she has accomplished. I know he is watching his family but I’ll always wish he were here with us. Though grief did make see life differently and for the better. I feel so at peace with everything and it feels good. It’s been quite the journey!
    Take care!

    • Kristine Carlson September 11, 2015 at 8:45 am - Reply

      Yes, indeed, Nicole! You have done a remarkable job with your daughter and your loss. Much love, sister! Time for YOU now! xo

  17. Beniam September 10, 2015 at 11:12 pm - Reply

    Thanks for sharing …just to let you know that your words are echoed all over the world …Reading you from Addis Abeba , Ethiopia …where we are celebrating our new year 2008 …yes we do have a different calendar…Another proof that Everything has to be put in perspective ..

    • Kristine Carlson September 11, 2015 at 8:43 am - Reply

      Thanks, Beniam!
      Happy new year!
      Grateful for your readership and perspective…

  18. Jan ambrose September 13, 2015 at 11:59 am - Reply

    I wasn’t able to put my feelings into words but you have done it for me. I began feeling more love, understanding and tolerance after I lost Bruce. I didn’t understand how I could be grieving and feeling so much love and compassion for others at the same time. Thank you. I am so grateful. Lobe, Jan

    • Kristine Carlson September 17, 2015 at 2:04 pm - Reply

      So glad, Jan. Much love to you as you live with an open heart! Best, Kris

  19. Celina March 29, 2018 at 7:39 am - Reply

    I Lost my Rob in 2012 my heart, my soul mate, best friend. I am still grieving and stuck in the endless cylce of grief , Fear, second guessing of everything and have severe trust issues, thank you for your words, they really helped me see a few things..

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