Trailblazer Interview: Christina Rasmussen & Falling Away Then Finding a Way
To know illness is, unquestionably, to know loss. It’s not easy. It hurts.
I lost a future (but I gained a new path).
I lost friends (and found a Trailblazing sisterhood).
I lost possibilities (then created new ones).
It might look like things falling away but it can feel so much more visceral than that – like the people, dreams and self-images have been wrenched, painfully from us. Being forced into a new ‘sick chick’ identity can seem an all encompassing, dangerous trap with no perceived way out.
But there are ways. And people who can help.
Christina Rasmussen is one of them.
The founder of Second Firsts, a global movement to help people live after illness and loss, Christina’s knows of what she speaks. A best selling author, and endorsed by Dr Bernie Siegel (Love, Medicine and Miracles ), her story is a powerful one. Christina’s work is also supported by the CEO of Dana Farber Cancer Institute. Her new book, Second Firsts Live, Laugh and Love Again is a runaway success, and she has stopped in to chat with us in the middle of her current book tour.
Enjoy the video interview (transcript on it’s way!) and buy the book here.
And cheers to us all finding our way…together.
Transcript below video.
Christina Rasmussen Interview[00:00:00]
GRACE: Thank you for joining us today.
I’m Grace Quantock.
from GraceQuantock.com. And Healing-Boxes.com
And I’m here with my dear friend Christina Rasmussen of SecondFirsts.com.
Now Christina whose new book Second First: Live, laugh and love.
And yes I put a plastic cover on it, because I have to keep it that safe.
Cos I’m reading it so many times.
Her book has been endorsed by Dr Bernie Segel of Love, Medicine and Miracles and by the President and CEO of Dana Faber Cancer Institute.
Christina is the founder of Second First and the Non Profit, Lifestarters. And she’s built a community of 38,000 Lifestarters.
And of course we know she is a Stellar Trailblazer.
So welcome Christina.
CHRISTINA: So good to be here. Thank you so much for having me.
GRACE : Thank you for joining us.
I’m just going to do a little catch up for people who need a review.
Christina you’ve been taking a break in the middle of your amazingly successful book tour for Second Firsts.
And the first questions I want to ask you, is if people want to get your book right now where do they go?[00:01:21]
They can find it on Amazon, on Amazon UK, on Amazon, in every different country in the US Barnes & Noble in the UK
They can get it
If the bookstore doesn’t have it, they can order it.
It also published in the UK
Your world as well.
And it’s available everywhere. Really so thank you for asking.
GRACE: I very much recommend people post this and go and get the book.
Just have to say that.
So, Second First and Life after lost can apply not just to the death love one but to so many different loses, including divorce, separation, job loss but also to illness and the lost of one’s pre-diagnosis life.
Can you tell us little bit about that?[00:02:15]
Yes, actually when my husband was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer our life changed.
But he, when he was alive for another for 3 and half years.
So for 3 and half years we were without knowing what’s gonna happen, you know we didn’t he is gonna die.
We had lot of hope and we tried to live this amazing life but in the midst of trying to live this life you also loose so much.
Your relationships changed.
Your ability to have joy is reduced.
Your identity is very different.
He changed dramatically, throughout the time that he he was diagnosed and there were some very difficult times.
And we both felt that we lost so much even before we lost him.
But it doesn’t have to be this way and re-entry to life after diagnosis uhmmm.
You know, I even wrote an article on I think Kevin MD a huge blog in the US about doctors, and I talked about what if the doctors in their meetings with us spend a few minutes talking about living instead of dying?
Would it have made a difference in our lives?
Nobody really talks about life.
People talk about how long you have left and how many treatments you have to have.
Make sure you don’t put yourself out there too much because it’s too exhausting too tiring.
It’s tiring to have life right, and but in the midst of all that, we went on many adventures.
We travelled to different places around the world.
We bought a house knowing, I mean we bought a house, knowing that he, he has stage 4 colon cancer and there is too much INAUDIBLE and he was not a maybe.
And we tried the best we could to live a life we wanted to have even if he wasn’t diagnosed, but it is difficult, it’s very difficult.[00:04:25]
G: Hmmm. Right.
What I really enjoyed in the book is how the exercises, the stories, the examples really feel like going through with you in person.
C: Haha ha I tried.
G: It’s really well translated and going through personally from the point of view of the loss after illness of the Pre-Diagnosis life from the Post Diagnosis life.
It really made a difference, it helped me process that even now years later.
Umm can you speak to how this book came to be from going through this journey with your husband to now hundreds and thousands of people.
C: You know prior to his passing and diagnosis I used to be a Grief Therapist.
And you know it’s so interesting how I never expected my life would be filled with loss and so much loss and in my 20s I studied in the University of Durham in England and I did my Master in Counselling Psychology and you know that University many people of US don’t know how good it is.
G: I just want to pause a second and point out that is one of the top 100 University in the world and one of the top 3 in the UK.
C: Yes! That’s true, thank you so much, and nobody knows.
Here in Durham they don’t really know what it is but it was an amazing University and I was very blessed to have full scholarship to go there.
I mean it was amazing.
So, I studied my undergraduate degree there and my Masters in Counselling Psychology and I chose to do my thesis on the Stages of Bereavement.
And be a Grief Therapist and my professor at that time said to me.
“I’m surprised why you wanna do this, you are so happy you are happy person and vibrant.”
But I said, “I love people a lot in my life and I couldn’t imagine losing them.”
And I want to see how it is to get people back who have lost someone.
How can they come back to life and the time I remember in my 20s I don’t know what I was doing but I knew something guided me to that decision.
So I did my thesis on that, I started, and moved to US after that, and I worked at a hospice facilitating spouses who lost their spouse.
Facilitate group like that.[00:07:03]
And the time my life was still great.
Starting 2003, my husband was diagnosed Stage 4 colon cancer, and everything went upside down.
That was the first experience of loss.
I had also lost a baby girl prior to that.
But that was the first time.
I never expected this,
I thought that was gonna be the one thing in my youth that I would experience and then I would have an easy sail until my 60 or 70s. Right.
Ha ha ha
GRACE: Right, right, it did happened.
“Yes,” The thing.
CHRISTINA: I had I lost my daughter I was pregnant and she couldn’t breath outside when she came outside of me.
So when she was born she died, that was really hard and I thought if only I can get through this then my life would be so great again.
And then just few years later she was diagnosed and few years later after that he died.
And I had two young daughters at that time, no job, never worked in US before.
Because when we were in US I had no green card.
We were there with the visa and my visa wasn’t a working visa.
So couldn’t go and do my job. And when he died I couldn’t go back to my work because I was grieving so much.[00:08:44]
And then I also realised that it was I couldn’t believe how painful it was. I couldn’t believe how inhuman it was. I couldn’t believe how grief was such an inhuman experience taking place in a human body.
And how the world didn’t stop, to help me.
And there was nobody.
I couldn’t help myself others couldn’t help me, professionals couldn’t help me.
I didn’t want to take pills. It was my choice and my decision. I don’t have an opinion about other people choices.
I can actually understand when people choose to take them, because it is unbearable.
I realised then, if I was ever to come back to life, I would go back and get everyone else.
Ha ha ha.
That’s what happening now.
He he he.
GRACE: Thank you for coming back, for getting yourself out and for coming back to get the rest of us.
CHRISTINA: And it was a long journey, a longer journey than I thought it would be.
Getting to this book I knew I wasn’t there to write a memoir.
And I knew it wasn’t gonna be about my story, because there were so many books that were about other people story.
And they are very healing to read, and it’s part of the journey, but after you read all those stories then your life is still the same.
Nothing have changed in your life. And I wanted to write a book about the steps you need to take to begin again.
To re-enter again.
So, I knew was not able to write it the next year after his loss.
It has now been 7 years, since he died.
I would have to have a big gap between his loss and the writing this book.
When I did write it, it was exactly what it needed to be.
A pathway back to life.
The reentry process.
A way of living again.
In my work with thousands of people, I discovered…a hiding place.
I discovered a place, between the two lives even when you go through a diagnosis.
When you first get the diagnosis, your world collapses.[00:11:08]
And you don’t know what is gonna happen next. You think your life is over, right?
GRACE: Yeah everything. At the moment I call it a time of Phoenix Fire.
When everything burns up, around you and everything in you is gone.
Everything you touch, just crumbles.
You don’t even know who you are anymore.
People start referring to you as, by the name of the condition, and not by your name.
You know Grace, my husband said to me…he said to me I haven’t changed…that he had not changed.
But everyone around him changed…the way they looked at him.
That was very upsetting to him.
It’s very very hard. People would ring me and ask “How are you?”
And I say I am really happy today.
No no, how is your health?
Ha ha ha
It was like, every time it is like the condition is more important than you.
CHRISTINA: Well I guess I have to not be one of those people.
I always ask about…I think about the career first.
May be I shouldn’t You know.
GRACE: You always ask beautiful questions.
It’s wonderful but one thing I personally connected in..in the book was when you wrote
“We can’t recreate the life we once have, we have to reinvent life for yourself.”
And that is where I come back to the Diagnosis Moment, and creating a life after it.
So you can tell us a bit about your Mail Carrier Moment and the Reentry Model…
After diagnosis now…
Can you tell us a bit about[00:13:00]
CHRISTINA: After I came back from the hospital where he died, I remember the moment of leaving him and literally getting up from the bed, and walking to the phone, outside the room to call the funeral home.
Because that was apparently, I was told, at that time, the first call to make.
All our family was there anyways.
So, this was to make arrangements and it has to be from me. Nobody, because I was his wife I had to be the one calling and saying…
So I remember making that call…honestly Grace, it was like I was having out of body experience.
My body was moving, and I was either insane or gone with him, somewhere in the other side.
And I went home, told my kids which was the hardest thing I have ever had to do in my life.
Nothing compares to that.
Telling actually your dad is … and they were small, they were very small and their reaction was so different to the adult reaction.
And the times went by and getting to that story I went back to school because I didn’t think I should be doing grief work because I was suffering so much.
I graduated with straight A’s I got a second Post Graduate degree from Northeastern.
I went and got a job in the corporate world, because I thought that was the thing to do.
I thought that was me getting my life back.
But what I didn’t know at that time was that I was actually in the waiting room, the hiding place that I talked about.
And I will tell you how I got out from there.
This place in between 2 lives, the problem with that place is that when we exit one life, we think we enter the next, the second chapter.
But we we don’t. We actually going in a place between two lives. But we don’t know we are in the waiting room because we don’t realized there is an amazing life waiting for us right here.
So we going to waiting room and we go to wait for time to heal us.
For time to make things better.
How many times, people told you even, just take it easy give it sometime, let’s see what’s going on, right!
Didn’t they said that?
Yes they did.
Yes they did.
And till then we don’t have time right, and we don’t have unlimited time.
So I went to this waiting space without knowing I was there and I was viewing my life from the place of the Widow.
For someone who wasn’t really diagnosed, the cancer patient, you know all those different labels.
The Widow, Single Parent, Unlucky.
Living in an unfair world.
Living in a place where life was much better for everyone else.
But not so good for me and I had this job that I hated.
I got myself to job to make sure I have…health insurance, to feed my kids. But I didn’t like it at all.
So for a year and half, after his loss, I was living life, in the wrong way.
It wasn’t about living fully, it was about surviving, and feeling really scared, every single day.[00:16:32]
And really watching my life going by.
Until one day, I didn’t know the time that was, the Defining Moment and that was the opening of the door from the waiting room.
I reason why I share this story with people, people think that, the only way to change their life, is through making this big jumps, and leaps, and big steps and changing careers, or going out on a date, or working really hard, to get the job they really don’t like.’
These are not the things that would get you to the life that is waiting for you here.
So one day, I was living at the time at the Boston area, right now I’m in California.
This is the first time you talk to me in California. It is an amazing place.
I was living the Boston area and it was a week before christmas and I told my parents don’t come and stay with me at Christmas.
I really want to experience real life. I want to experience the life with my 2 kids and really know how I used to be this unit, this family.
There was so much snow outside, that the mailman won’t deliver mail.
And I decided to pick the girls and I said girls let’s go and shovel outside.
So, we give the mailman space, to put his little car, in front of the driveway. So he could put in…
In Boston, people who have never been there…some years the snow is like walls.
It’s up there literally…comes here…so shovelling in that was a big job and the girls and I were shovelling and shoveled and spent 2 to 3 hours, just shoveling and we made enough space.
I walked the stairs to see if it could fit in it.
And say, “You know girls we did a good job.”
“We’re gonna get our Christmas card. He’s gonna stop.”
So we walked back to the house and the girls were playing and I was waiting.
I mean, for me at that time my life wasn’t that exciting.
I went to work and came back.
I was on vacation.
It was christmas time and the cards were a big deal.
That people sent some gift.
So I watched…[00:18:40]
GRACE: They are…
When you are hurting
That is what healing boxes are…
Because when you are hurting…it comes through the mail
CHRISTINA: It’s really a big deal.
The healing box and I received one from you was amazing.
It’s like an gift in the midst of a snow storm, right.
And for me getting those things were so important and so I am waiting and see him arriving in my neighbourhood and driving, driving and stopping, looking.
And he saw the changed and some obviously the shovel and continued to drive.
And that moment, I had two choices.
Choice number1 was to sit back down on my couch and cry my eyes out, because my life was so bad, I couldn’t even got my mail.
Ad that was the choice I was making.
I would try something, the best I could. It wouldn’t work out and I will go back to my new identity of the Widow, of the Single Parent.
I have no help from anyone and oh my God, it is a terrible life.
It wasn’t a good life. I’m not saying it was.
But choice no. 2 put on my boots and run.
Ha ha ha.
For those who have never heard of the story before it’s really funny.
For those who have, I’m sorry I’m repeating it, but it’s the only way for me to help people understand when they can accept…
How to find the portal into the life that they want.
And I will talk about this life, because it’s not a perfect life.
But it’s a life that is magical and adventurous.
The perceptions of a new chapter and a second chapter needs to changed a little bit.
So we’ll talk little bit about that as well. But I put on my boots and I started running.
Now I left my kids in the house.
I was in a place of…I don’t know…how dare he not stop.
I work so hard.
He can’t do this to me.
My life can’t keep passing by like this.
So I was putting on the boots and I was running.
I was crying.
Four or five blocks down I check it out…he drove, delivered. and drove again.
Everytime I catch up with him…
Cos I was on foot right. He would drive again.
So I trust he could see me from the rear view window.
He did see me. I ‘m certain of it.
And he thought, there’s a crazy woman running with her pajamas on, in snow boots…it wasn’t even snow boots…I had Uggs.
I caught up with him cause he delivered a package.
I said to him why didn’t you delivered my mail.
And he said to me there was not enough space to deliver it.
But I said I shoveled and so…
Well and said you should have shoveled better.
I said that’s the best I could do.
He said you should have asked your husband to do it.[00:21:27] And I said my husband is dead and he would if he could but he’s dead. Now give me back my mail.
I remembered the man face went white.
He literally felt so bad about what he had just said.
Who says that? Nobody says that.
Ha ha ha.
This was a message from the Universe.
I swear this was not a normal situation, and he gave me my mail and in that moment in time.
First of all, I always got my mail after that.
But I also got my life back.
I started looking at my life as the mailman driving by everyday. Because I was a widow and single parent and I lost so much in my life.
I should just be sad watching the mailman, instead of just going out after it.
So I went after new job at my job, at my corporate office.
I went on first date with my now husband.
I went after my life and another thing that I did during the days after that incident.
I decided to smile. Even though I didn’t like going to the job.
I remember walking into the new year and the smile on my face, and everyone is like, “Did something happen?”
I was like, “No, nothing happened. I am just having a good day.”
And I started thinking this way, and slowly my life started to get better.
After that, of course a lot going on after that but you can ask me another question, I’m talking so much.
GRACE: No no, thank you for sharing the story, and if you want to talk and share about a little bit about the Re-entery, the New Chapter, the Life after that.
CHRISTINA: Yes, so people’s perception of life after loss, or life after diagnosis or life after a LIFE INTERRUPTION or bad event, whatever the event is. Is it a JOB LOSS, aDIVORCE, a BREAKUP, REJECTION, BEING TOLD NO.
Whatever changes your identity, being diagnosed with horrible disease that you have to live with forever.
Being different than everyone else.
Being the minority…
There is so many losses.
Ageing is a loss.
And above all, the biggest loss that we experience throughout all of those loses that I talk about is the loss of worthiness.
In my experienced with talking so many people, there is no they feel no longer worthy to have the life they deserved.
So they have no worthiness.
They have no confidence that they are as good as everyone else.
And then they give up.
They go in the Waiting Room and wait because it is more comfortable there.
So first of all, one way out is to find a small step, like me going out for the mailman.
It was a crazy step but it wasn’t a big step. I was just trying to get my cards, my mail.
Change your hair color.
Paint the walls of your house different colors.
Move the couch around.
Go to work in different way, go to different cafe.
Do something that is 5 % plugged in.
Plugging in into the life that you want to have.[00:24:42]
Once you starts doing that you find the proof that there is life out there.
Outside of this place in between.
Once you start to see the life that is waiting for you, to have it in the way that…
Don’t think that life is supposed to be perfect.
People expect life to just be a bed of roses.
I think I have been like this for the period of time.
I’m living this right now, I’m in a stretch of a few years of pure joy.
I talk to Universe God, many times and I said don’t you change mej…that…I won’t be able to serve you…if you changed this.
But It is not a perfect life, it is an adventurous life.
It has a lot of obstacles and fear worry and hardships, but I’m in control and I’m creating it .
So, getting back to control of your destiny and seeing your life as an adventure instead of like this perfect things that you’ve to create…
Happiness is not perfect.
GRACE: I love what you are saying of the adventure, what we always say in the Trailblazers…
is that the diseases, the challenges, the disability, it is just a footnote, but you are the adventure story.
Yes it’s been like I’m having adventures.
I’m having a full blown adventure and I think that life here that is waiting for you is an adventure.
It is a fairy tale in a way that, you know I talk about fairy tales a lot and I believe in fairy tales.
But not in the way that people think fairy tales are .
If you watch fairy tales on television theres dragons, bad guys, and people die and yes in the end there is princess and prince and all those stuff but it is not about the happy ending.
It is about the middle.
I have had two fairy tales, already.
I’m living one right now, and I’ve lived one, in the past.
And maybe I get to live another one. I don’t know, and I have to say…
I have shared this story once before, on my way to, I think Seattle or one of the book signing events.
I sat next to a woman who was 93.
And she started talking to me, and I told her I was an author, and she love books and I told her what I was writing about.
And she said that, she have lost 3 husbands.
She was widowed three times.
And she said she was blessed three times.
And the way she talked about her 3 chapters was magnificent.
She told me about every husband, how wonderful they were in their own way.
And I asked her which husband do you missed the most.
And she turned around and said “What a stupid question.”
She turned around and said, “All of them have different things, my last husband was really funny. My first husband, had my kids with him, you know.”
I can’t remember what she said about the second husband that but…
And she is older, she’s 93 so she had a long life.
And she had 3 amazing husbands or 3 husbands.
The way she talked about her life, it wasn’t “Poor me. Do you know I was widowed three times?”
It was, “I had 3 amazing husbands in my life and I was widowed three times.
But our life is very blessed.”
GRACE: Thank you what a blessing.
It is a shift right?
One of the steps in my, after plugging into life and at 5% chasing down the mailman or telling your neighbour to park in a different space or telling your friend something you have not dared to tell her before.
Speaking the truth, right and creating your new identity… the next steps is shifting your mind shifting the way you look at life.
And the way you talk to himself.
So, I shifted from the Widow, the Single Parent, Unlucky Person, Tough Life vocabulary to Warrior, Persistent, Resilient, Dreamer, Thriver.
I’m gonna go out there and do the impossible.
I’m gonna show the world what I can do because of what I have been through.
So when you shift your mentality from this weakness, to this strength your life changes and for you, I mean look at you what you’ve done with your diagnosis and you are a Trailblazer.
Do you see how your shift in your words?
Yeah, thank you very much. We choose this words to go from being called the Sick Chick, the Broken One, the Disabled Girl to saying “No one I am not gonna be any of those anymore.”
If medicine hasn’t caught up with what my body need yet. And if I’m doing all the weird healing things, it doesn’t mean that I’m different. It means that I’m a Trailblazer.
CHRISTINA: “Yes and that is powerful.
GRACE: Thank you.
My last question is that lots of Sick Chick Trailblazer who been listening to this would be doing a lots and also wanted to draw something good from that.
Maybe start a business so become liberated in their own way.
And you write and speak in a meaningful way about turning Loss into a Launchpad.
So, could you just share just one little thing from that here today?[00:30:21]
So, I have to say that, this is not for everyone.
So if someone is listening and doesn’t have that need to take their story and make it into this Launchpad for other people.
It is okay.
We have to say that, because not everyone has that need.
And for those who don’t have it, my advice is to look around their life today and try and make their own life, the life that they want to have, and recreate themselves.
Find the new identity, that is waiting for them to discover.
On the book, go through the grief exercise in the book. Find your Thriver. Find the Watcher. There is a part of us called the Watcher.
There is a part of us that has all the answers.
Look for the answer within you.
And the re-enter your life the way that you want to.
Not the way that you think you should.
Not the way other people with the same diagnosis have done.
This is your life.
So, that is the message for those folks who, are still struggling to figure out their life, after diagnosis.
For those who feel that they have a purpose, and they are here to change the world, just like you are and just like me.
First of all, realized that, this is not gonna be about you anymore, it’s gonna be about everyone else.
And that is gonna drive you even more because the work that we do.
This is nothing to do with me anymore.
My life is fixed. I have what I need in my life. I do this for everyone else.
Believe in your voice. There is voice inside of you that you barely listen to.
Once you be quiet and I’m gonna say go and meditate. Meditation is a wonderful thing try and but try and find out what the messages is.[00:32:24]
Both Grace and I are not writers, we are messengers.
I hope its okay that I say, I describe you like that.
We are messengers and we receive messages from the world and we share it through the filter of our own experience.
So, used your experience and start communicating.
Start sharing your message.
And don’t be afraid to be yourself.
Don’t copy anyone else.
Don’t try to mimic anybody doing this.
Your message is unique. Unless you share it from your heart and soul, it will not be successful.
It has to come from you.
And go for it. There is nothing you’ve been through…I always said you’ve been through the unthinkable and you can do the impossible.
GRACE: Thank you and yes, INAUDIBLE but now Christina has just told you.
So the last thing, if people want to work with you, where should they go?
If they want to become a Lifestarter, if they want to get involve, and if they want to spread the word about LIfe After Loss.
If you could tell people one action.
So, the number one thing I said people to do is, I write this letter every friday, it is called the Message in a Bottle.
So if you go to my website SecondFirst .com and I don’t market, even went my book came out, I wrote my blog and I wrote a thing underneath…
P.S. Today the book is…
I should be more business savvy but I really love to write a letter.
So, the Message in a Bottle, SecondFirst.com.
Under there is my picture, there is a line that says,
You see a Message in a Bottle, just put your name and email in there.
And every friday you will receive a life changing letter.
In 2014 we will be launching the Non Profit the LifeStarters.
Where you get to re-enter along side, hopefully, one day millions of people going through the re-entry process, through a social network, communicating and sharing and taking actions steps all together.
You gonna actually sign up for that right now and you get notified when the network is ready at www.TheLifestarters.Org.
Or you can go www.SecondFirst.Com you will see the sign up there as well.
People ask me about the re-entry program.
I haven’t come up with the date that I’m gonna do it again, but there is a lot of people waiting for that.
And I’m very grateful.
So, sometime in February or early March we will have another re-entery Program.
So watch out for that when it comes out.
And thats it.
Thank you, So I hope INAUDIBLE…to get Message in a Bottle, because you gonna get everything you need, right there.
Thank you so much for joining us today. And blessed be and Happy Trailblazing
CHRISTINA: Thank you so much, Bye.
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