Many of us have suffered different effects of the pandemic in 2020. There are days where it is hard to make sense of it all or think about what to expect for 2021. That’s why I found my interview with Karen Chaston is super timely, as it helps us to get a different perspective when it comes to tragedy, suffering and life lessons.
In July 2011, Karen’s life changed forever when her son died unexpectedly. It is without a doubt a mother’s worst nightmare. Within 15 months, Karen resigned from her CFO role of a publicly listed company and began a personal, professional and spiritual journey. From that point on, all the experiences have led hers into becoming a beyond loss expert and co-founding her business Live Love By Design.
Fast forward to today, Karen Chaston is known as a business owner, beyond loss mentor and international keynote speaker who has shared the stage with Marianne Williamson, Jamie-Lee Curtis, Valerie Harper and Dr Ellie Drake. She is the author of eight books and numerous e-books as well as an online TV show host and podcaster.
- How a mother’s worst nightmare has lead Karen from a CFO to become a Beyond Loss expert.
- Her professional and spiritual journey to move through grief and growth. Eventually, she re-calibrated and re-design her life.
- 5 Steps process: The Gift of Loss – We start with a Stop and Go within.
- People come into your life for a reason or for a spiritual lesson
- There are over 40 different loss events that can affect our lives
- Sadness is completely different from grieving and suffering
- Instead of buying into someone else’s version of success and good life, we take time to design the life we actually love. That’s why Karen has co-founded her business “Live Love By Design”
- Three aspects of every relationship: Physical, emotional ad spiritual
- Sometimes the loss that we experience is not one-dimensional, it brings another kind of gift
- Ways to connect with Karen and her webinars on topics related to: “The Gift of Loss” and “Live Love By Design”.
If you would like to connect with Karen, please visit:
|Sze Wing:||Hi, everyone. I’m really happy to introduce you to my guest of the day. We have Karen Chaston with me, and she’s a business owner, a Beyond Loss mentor and international keynote speaker, and I’m really excited to chat with her because she had been on stage with some really big names including Marianne Williamson, Jamie Lee Curtis, Valerie Harper and Dr Ellie Drake to name a few. So I mean, I don’t know how it’s going to be on the same stage with these people because I think, I love public speaking but I still sometimes get nervous, so anyway. Not the major focus for today, but I can’t help it, I’m off script sometimes. Anyway. She’s also an author for eight books, probably more now, and working on some more, and numerous ebooks as well as online TV show host and podcaster. So you can tell, she has been busy working and sharing her work. And in her corporate career earlier, she was a CPA, CFO of a public listed company, and a city manager for more than 25 years. So definitely, she has a very solid background in the corporate world, but she also have– probably hand in hand that you’ve been obviously very productive and effective in your life, and you have written eight books after that, so. But so today, I’m really pleased to have her as my guest. About nine years ago, her life have changed forever when a tragedy hit, and within 15 months, she had resigned from her CFO and began a personal, professional and spiritual journey, and that’s, I think, leading her to become a Beyond Loss expert and for founding her business called Live, Love By Design. So today, I’m very grateful to have you as my guest, Karen. So welcome to my show.|
|Karen:||Thank you, Sze, I’m so glad to be here. It’s exciting. We’ve known each other probably for what, about five, seven years now, something like that.|
|Sze Wing:||Yes. Yeah.|
|Karen:||Yeah. So great to be on your show. And you’re doing so well as well.|
|Sze Wing:||Oh, thank you. Well, I think when we first met, podcast wasn’t a thing yet.|
|Karen:||No. I think there were a few people doing it, and we were all looking at them in awe, but now, let’s face it, it’s so easy, isn’t it? We’ve got to love the world we live in. We have so many things at our fingertips that we cannot only connect with other people, we can share our thoughts, we can do so much globally, not just locally. We can do it all over the world. And it’s nice to be able, especially for women, to find our voice and to hare what we’re thinking and what we’re feeling, and our lives with everyone.|
|Sze Wing:||Yeah. So that really leads to my very first question I wanted to ask you. So we mentioned a little bit early on that about nine years ago, you had a big tragedy in your life and really turned things upside down, and lead you to become, I would say, probably a major lead you to become who you are today. And if it’s okay with us, can you share a little bit about that tragedy or the experience? Because you also talked about how now, women can find their voice and share, and I think that’s also the second part of the question, that you may have life experience, you overcome a big challenge, but then, in the past, it may not be the same while now, we have much more opportunity and different platform that we can share. So tell us a bit about your experience.|
|Karen:||Okay. Well, thank you, because back in 2011, it was actually the 10th of July, 2011, so it’s just over nine years ago, my husband and I woke up and we thought we were going to have a lazy Sunday at home. Though, within 15 minutes, we had found our youngest son by a minute, because of course, he has a twin brother Josh and an older brother Ben. We had found Dan. We thought initially he was just passed out at our backdoor but within minutes the paramedics arrived and they actually said that he had passed away several hours earlier, which is pretty traumatic. Most people are like, “That’s the last thing you want.” We thought a healthy 27-year-old had gone out the night before with his mate separately to his girlfriend. But what had happened and it took us a long time to figure out exactly what happened and to be quite honest Dan actually told me from the other side what actually did happen, which is interesting and I know a lot of people, a lot of listeners, may not be into that and don’t understand that but I’m so grateful that I have such a huge spiritual side to me. And so what had happened, he had drunk too much. He’d come home. He bent down to pick up his key. For some reason, he left it at home so his girlfriend left one out for him. And as he bent down, he fell over and everything shook up. And unfortunately, his lungs failed him. He couldn’t catch his breath. So he did pass away. And two years previously he’d been in Scotland and he’d had pneumonia where he had spent a week in hospital. At the autopsy the next day they actually shared with us that his lungs were so bad that as if he had smoked full on for say 10, 15 years – which he hadn’t. He was only a social smoker – he couldn’t have done one-quarter of the damage to the lungs. They also shared that he had a benign tumor on his brain, which none of us knew about. He was complaining about headaches every now and then, but that was about all.|
|Karen:||So yeah, as you can imagine it was a mother’s worst nightmare. You have young children and it certainly is the last thing any parent expects. My mother at Dan’s funeral was like, “What’s going on here. He’s meant to be at my funeral. I’m not meant to be at his.” So it is something that we never ever really expect. And the way I cope with it was I just went straight back to work. I was a CFO of a publicly listed company then and I just ate more, drank more, and worked even harder, which was not ideal. But if you look at the way most people cope with any sort of loss that’s what we do. We listen to the old clichés. Oh, just keep busy. Just give it time. Everything will work out. And of course, it’s not that way. And then I now know that the– Dan’s passing was meant to have been my wake up call. And as I didn’t wake up, as I continued into what I like to call my Groundhog Day days. They had to send me another tragic event. So 15 months after Dan passed, I had a choice to make and the company that I was working for, which I really loved– and I was a really good accountant I have to say. They said to me, “Karen you won’t be the CFO in the new company,” because two companies were merging together, “but you will be doing everything you’re doing now and more.” And I just went, “Oh, that’s okay. I don’t really care what my title is.” Until they said, “You’ll be doing it for two-thirds of your current salary.” And Sze that was the best gift they ever gave to me because I was really peeved for a day, two days at the most, but then I started to realize that, “You know what I’m only there for the money. And if I’m honest, I’m wasting most of it just to get through the day, just to cope with the stress, and to do things.” So I chose redundancy and I was so glad that even though I was so diseased and I didn’t even realize how diseased I was, and most of us in that space don’t realize because everyone is exactly the same. They’re all in there in that motion. And we all know how dense it can be in the corporate world. So yeah, I chose me and that’s when I started on this journey that I love to call the journey to becoming my own best friend, where I really did deep dive into me into all areas of my life and I realized that I was living in one area of my life. And the Live Life By Design model, I have nine areas of life. And I was living in one probably 85%, which is my professional space and it’s not good. My health was bad. My wealth wasn’t great because I wasn’t really looking at it. My relationships were quite fragile. So that’s why I just love who I am now more than anything else. And along that journey – and that hasn’t been an easy journey – I decided that, you know what, the best way that I can help others and the reason why everything has happened to me was so that I could go finding an easier way for other people to move beyond their loss. And that’s what I do now and I just love it. I love helping people to have a new perspective around loss.|
|Sze Wing:||Wow. Thank you so much for sharing your personal story. So let’s unpack it a little bit because I think a lot of questions based on that. So first of all, I had been thinking while I was preparing this– by the way, listeners, this is the first time we completely have no draft questions, draft scripts because we just decided spontaneously, let’s do this. And normally, we would have some questions prepared, but so this time is quite spontaneous. But I really want to– just before we came on, I was preparing. I wanted to ask you something to do with grief, but in a sense that some people fight it, some people say surrender to it, some people deny it, in a way. What do you saying about your initial response. So now, after knowing your own experience and walk through the whole tunnel, what would you say, for those who may have experienced that challenge or tragedy as such, how to look grief in the face and go through it all? What helped you to manage pulling yourself on the dark line of the soul into the light after? So tell us a bit more about that.|
|Karen:||Okay. So first of all, everything I did is not what I advise other people to do now. I did it literally the hard way, which is why I went looking. But I also looked back and it’s really interesting. My grandfather passed away when I was 13, which was in the early ’70s. And he died six months after his oldest son passed. So he had six children. He had two girls. The oldest and the youngest were the girl and the youngest girl was my mum, and he had four boys in the middle. So his oldest son had passed and six months later, my grandfather passed, and he died from a broken heart from his son dying. He never got over it. So that was really in my psyche. So I knew that I was not going to die from a broken heart from my children passing. I knew that there had to be a better way. And yeah, sure. Initially, I ignored it but I also knew that there had to be a better way. So when I went searching and I found a lot of different things. And in my five-step process that I walk people through – and I call it the gift of loss – I found that the first thing that everyone should do– and most people do not do it because for centuries we have not been doing it this way. The first thing is to stop. You’ve got to stop. Because when we stop, first of all, we will take our conscious, loving breath. You know the one? Where you breathe deep down into your belly and you actually activate the nerve endings of the hypothalamus gland which goes all the way up to our brains. So we enact our wisdom. We enact our love, and we start to ask those beautiful questions. What has happened? What does this mean for me now and going forward? Now, if you look at the recent pandemic that we’ve all been in, what were we all told to do?|
|Sze Wing:||Stay at home.|
|Karen:||Stop. Exactly. Just stop, right? And you think of the way we’ve been living our lives for the last 50, 70 years. We’ve all been getting busier, and busier, and busier, and busier. So this pandemic, from my perspective, isn’t a bad thing because it’s getting us all to stop. And the ones who are stopping and doing it with ease are the ones who have already started to do the deep dive into themselves. They’ve started to realize that it’s not such a scary place. And more importantly, they all have also started to realise that that’s where all their answers are. We’re all so busy looking outside of ourselves that we forget to go within. We’re the only ones that have the wisdom for ourselves but we never really look there. Well, I’m not going to say, “We never really look there.” Not many of us choose to look there because it’s scary and we’re not really sure who we’re going to find. But the beautiful thing is, as you work through it– and I know you’ve done the work. As we work through it, we end up finding this amazing person because we start to take off all of the layers that we put on, just to survive in the world.|
|Sze Wing:||We’re too busy to keep doing but we, actually, haven’t really gone within to know who we are and why we’re doing what we’re doing. So that’s why books like Know Your Why from Simon Sinek and themes like that become so popular these days because we’re starting to ask those questions. And that really leads to something else I want to ask you, when after a while– probably not immediately. Looking at the tragedy about your son’s passing, and you take the– eventually, you have to take the time to pause and to be still and then think about it. Do you see the whole– do you believe– do you subscribe in the school of thought where certain people come into your life and leave your life for a reason? And some people say this is complete nonsense, and some of us look at it as in, whether it’s good things or bad thing happen, there is a reason behind it. And part of it is the destiny. Part of it is fate. You have choice but a lot of the– some of the big things, you don’t. But then how are you going to live with it and respond after, you have that choice. So what’s your take on that one?|
|Karen:||Okay. Well, this one’s probably going to throw a lot of people a little bit [laughter], even more so into the spirituality. So I’ve been, actually, forever. I honestly believe that Dan and I designed this while we were still on the other side. When we were planning our life, we were actually planning for him to pass at a certain age, to assist me to wake up from where I was, from what I was doing, so I could then do what I’m doing now. Now one of my greatest passions, right, is to get this understanding into the corporate space, okay, to that they can start to value their employees. I’ve worked for a lot of companies. I know– and as a senior manager. I was the CFO of a publicly listed company, so I understand how the board and the senior management tick. And I also understand that in a lot of companies, they do not value their employees. They see them as replaceable and they treat them as though they’re replaceable. They don’t value their opinions. They tell them what to do. They micromanage them in a lot of cases. So I now know that when we start to look as humans as our most valuable asset in any company, right, we can not only create more profits, a better work environment, but we will actually have become more innovative. We will become an amazing workplace. But we need to understand our people. We need to, first of all, understand that they’re not one-dimensional, they’re three-dimensional. And with that comes a lot of stuff. There’s a lot– there are over 40 different loss events that can affect our lives.|
|Karen:||Now, when you hear that– when I first heard that, I went, “No way.” There can’t be 40. Sure, we know about the most common six ones. The death of a loved one; a divorce; a job loss; your health; your wealth and your pets. But if you look at this pandemic, some of the minor ones have come up. Loss of freedom; loss of choice; loss of status; change in work conditions; change in social activities; change in recreational activities. And the there’s more, and there’s more, and there’s more. So when we start to understand that a lot of things that happen in our lives are actually lost and when they happen to us, we can then understand why we’re feeling the way we are, and we can start to feel, there’s not something wrong with me, I’m actually in a grief situation. So if I actually look at this as grief, and I can very quickly work through it, right? It doesn’t have to take a lot of time. This is just a belief that we have built up over centuries because that’s the way people acted. If I could have done the five-step process, on the day that Dan had passed, and I would not have grieved and suffered. Sure, I still have sadness around that, right? Sadness is completely different to grieving and suffering. And that’s the difference. So when we understand this of our people, and of our family, and of our friends, we no longer have to say, “Will you stop talking about that? Haven’t you moved on? Why haven’t you moved on from this, whatever has happened in your life?” We can understand, we can say to people, we will be more comfortable around loss because we can say, “Do you know what? You can actually do duh-duh-duh.” And it’s really easy once you know the five-step process.|
|Sze Wing:||So I’m definitely going to ask you more about the five-step in a minute, but before that I want to say a couple of things. One is that I’m in the same view as you, you have shared the same view about a lot of the things that we experience or meant to tackle, the biggest lesson, we actually have decided it. Signed off some sort of soul contract with before we were born, and most likely with your family say, “Okay, so I need to learn self-reliance, so yes, let’s have you abandon me, or okay I’m going to exit early so you can learn about how to share this gift.” So okay that sounds good, that sounds good, and you agree with the whole soul family and then you go.|
|Karen:||Suzie, don’t you think at times, “Why the hell did I sign up for this?”|
|Sze Wing:||But that’s the thing, because our perspective as human is that this is good, that’s bad, this is long, that’s short. But in a spirit form they say, “No, this is a really great lesson, let’s do this.” Rather than “Oh, this is really painful, let’s don’t do it.” They have a different perspective or I think, we forget about that perspective, and so for us it’s quite two-dimensional, long and short and therefore that’s too short. And so that’s one thing I completely agree with your view and a lot of times I think with that view a lot of those things that we think is terrible, can turns out to be the blessing because that leads to different things, so change of perspective. So first of all, I agree with you. I don’t think it’s weird and if people think it’s weird, think again, maybe it helps you. But the second thing–|
|Karen:||Yeah, change your perspective. But Suzie, that’s why I call my program The Gift of Loss.|
|Sze Wing:||Yes, and I think for some people it’s hard to accept but they should just hang on and listen further because it may bring them gifts. But that leads to what I actually want to ask you, I have to say that I completely agree with you. What I want to ask you is this, so let’s say we get this view, we get it. Now not us, but say our best friend, or our boyfriend, or our wife, something happened. They experience grief and then we have this view, but you cannot tell people this view so quickly, especially if they have grief. And how would you after working and teaching for so many years, how would you advise people send a partner or those who experience this tremendous loss, and having such a different perspective, then how do they help them to get into the Five Step or whatever other things? So the partner that could be feeling very helpless, so what would you say to them?|
|Karen:||“How’s it working for you?”|
|Sze Wing||Probably “not well”.|
|Karen:||“How is your belief working for you at this moment? How are you feeling? Are you able to get out of bed? Are you able to stop the feelings? The way that you are crying, the way that you are feeling so down, is that working for you?” And of course, they’re going to say, “No. The rest of my life is on hold because I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to move on.” So then, the next thing is, “Would you like to try it a different way? Would you like to maybe just see if this works for you? And if it doesn’t, what have you got to lose?” Because doing loss the way that we’ve all been taught to do it, and we do it alone. And you’ve just got to look at our world. How is it working for all of us as a community? We have thriving alcohol and pharmaceutical industries. We have a suicide rate that is continually growing every year. So is the way we all experience loss, especially in the West, working for us? And I think most people will go, “No, it’s not.” And I just say, “Well, how about we just look at it a different way and see if it works, and if it does, fabulous, and if it doesn’t, well, you’re no worse off than where you are right now.”|
|Sze Wing:||Great. And I guess, from your experience, you created Live, Love By Design, and can you tell us a little bit about what it means to entail, and also, I think, within that business, you have the Beyond Loss program, so tell us all about it, of the practical side of things, so if people wanted to find out more, they know what’s next.|
|Karen:||Okay, cool. Thanks. So the reason I call my business Live, Love By Design is because I realized that I wasn’t living and loving my life. And most of us don’t take the time to actually design a life that we can live and love. Most of us don’t even take the time to actually decide what success means to us. We buy into everyone else’s version of it, and we wonder why it doesn’t work for us. So that’s why I purposely called my business Live, Love By Design, because I wished that in my 20s, I had actually taken the time to design it. Sure, it was probably going to need to be tweaked all the time because, as we said, things are going to happen to us that will throw us onto a different course and stuff like that, but it is the fact that once you’re consciously, “Well, I’m designing my life to live and to love it, I will just continuously move it or tweak it or do whatever.” So before I go into the Beyond Loss program and the Gift of Loss Five Steps, it’s really important for every one of us to know and to remember, because I’m a great believer in we already know everything, it’s just a matter of us remembering it, so for every relationship, there’s two people in every relationship but there’s three aspects to every relationship that we all need to be aware of. The first one is the physical aspect, and that’s the way that we hang out together, the things we do, the things we say and the way we touch each other. The second aspect is the emotional aspect. And that’s the way that we feel about each other. And it’s all-encompassing of all of our feelings and as we know, with every relationship we will go through all of the different feelings. The good, the bad, the glad, and the sad. And then the third aspect is the spiritual part. Now, that’s the intangible. We know we’re connected. We’re not really sure why. We just know that we are connected to this person, place, or thing. We connected from the first time we met each other, didn’t we? We instantly went–|
|Sze Wing:||Intuition. The inner knowing. There’s this thing. You cannot put a finger on it.|
|Karen:||Yeah. Exactly. Exactly. We don’t really know why but we just know, “You know what? She’s my sort of girl. She’s probably part of my soul family for us to go that place”. So when the loss event occurs, and it doesn’t matter what the loss event is, the physical relationship ends. Because you will no longer hang out together the way you used to, you will no longer speak to each other, touch each other, all of those things that you did before. Whether they’re dead or alive, it doesn’t matter. The physical relationship will change. So if you looked at death or divorce, the physical will change, though the emotional and the spiritual will live on forever. And what causes us to grieve and suffer is our emotional relationship because our unconscious mind goes into this emotional loop, right? Of continually saying, “Why did I say that? Why didn’t I say that? Why did I do that? Why didn’t I do that? Why did we postpone that? Why did we take that action? Why did we take this inaction?” So it continually goes until you complete the relationship.|
|Karen:||So what my gift of loss five-step process does, it assists you to have a healthy emotional relationship moving forward because we complete all of those things that we are more than likely unconscious of, we bring them to the conscious through the five steps, so that you can then complete them and then you can have a healthy emotional relationship moving forward. Now, for every single person who is listening and is divorced and does not have a good emotional relationship with any relationship And that’s the fear of this process and of course, once we know the process, we have it the rest of our lives. And the fact that loss is going to continually keep coming to you, isn’t it amazing just to have a process to go, “Oh. Okay. Right. I’m in loss. These are the five steps. Thank you very much, Karen. I can do them by myself. I can move on, have a healthy emotional relationship. Right.|
|Sze Wing:||Yeah. Definitely. Whether it’s loss of loved ones or divorce or, let’s say, not divorce but things that happen in our life. There will be difficult times in your life. It could be losing a job or it could be losing a house. Whatever that is– or, not losing it but there will be times when we feel emotional and we’re sad.|
|Karen:||Yeah. You’re right. Moving house is one of the loss event. You decide to down size but house is an extension of you. So you do the process and you honor it and you move on and then you have a healthy emotional relationship and that’s to stop that grieving and suffering and stop that is causing them to grieve and suffer.|
|Sze Wing:||So I think that really helps for me to hear that our listeners hear that if they’re going through something really challenging, this can really help them.|
|Karen:||Yeah. This is just a deep-dive in, asking yourself the right questions, coming up with the right answers, and you’ll come up, you will realize that to acknowledge the relationship is about. It’s like our heartbeat. It’s up and down, up and down. And it’s about honoring yourself as much as the other person in that relationship.|
|Sze Wing||Yeah. So tell us a little bit more about the programs you run. So if people want to take the next steps, what they involve, and all that.|
|I lead my retreats to make their life easier in all areas. So I have face-to-face here but not at the moment. And when this all happened, I thought it’s best to take all online. to do the work and all that sort of stuff. It’s really important for people to understand that all of my programs are for those who are willing to invest in themselves, not only money, but time because you’ve got to be prepared to take the time to deep dive in, and to do all of the work, right? Because if you don’t– so many people invest money in themselves, but they’re not prepared to do the action steps. And nothing is going to happen unless you do the action steps. You’ve got to act to move forward. Just paying the money doesn’t make it work. And I clearly say that to people, “Are you prepared to do this? Because at times it’s going to be tough.” It is going to be tough because we realize it’s so easy to blame, isn’t it? And if you break down the word blame, you have “bla”, and you have “me”. Now, most people, when they’re in the blame game they go, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.” And they forget about me because it’s what they expect for themselves. And that’s what making our lives even better. But, do you know what? I give him (Dan)all my credit. For everything I do, I’m a completely different person to who I was before. I limited myself in my corporate space. I would look at the CEO and I’d go, “Wow, look at him, or look at her. Look at them standing out there in front of people. There’s no way I could do that.” And now look at me, you can’t get me off the stage. You’ve got to get the hook out to drag me off, sort of thing. But it’s because we do limit ourselves. We don’t realize how much we can do. So that’s what I help people see. To see how beautiful they are and to get rid of that baggage that we all carry around for so long.|
|Sze Wing||Well, thank you so much. I think it really is go back to what we talk about the very beginning, sometimes the loss that we experience is not one-dimensional, it brings other kind of gift, but also the most important thing is take a pause to really figure out what it means to us and who are we, who am I, and who I want to be next? So it kind of like the conversation go back to all the way home about knowing that take a pause, just stop doing what you were doing and think about it. It’s probably the most important .And sometimes without having particular challenge, just everyday life, we need to take a pause so that we check-in, we tune in, and we know who we are and what we’re doing. So thank you so much for your well of wisdom.|
|Karen:||Yeah, oh, thank you for having me, I loved meeting you.|
|Sze Wing:||And so if people want to connect with you directly or come to your webinars, or know more about you, what’s the best way to connect with you online?|
|Karen:||Okay, so I’ve got two websites, livelovebydesign.com and karenchaston.com. Chaston spelled C-H-A-S-T-O-N. And my webinar is simply karenchaston.com\webinar.|
|Sze Wing||And I will put all the links on the blog post so people don’t have to worry about spelling. They can just click.|
|Karen:||Oh, thank you.|
|Sze Wing:||Thank you so much for today, and I think a lot of people who are experiencing something difficult in their life or if their partner, or friends and family are experiencing this conversation will be very valuable for them as well. So thank you so much.|