S4E3: Simple Strategies for Improving Your Grief Literacy with Kathi Balasek

My guest today is Kathi Balasek, an educator, empathy and grief literacy coach, university lecturer, speaker, and widow advocate. Kathi teaches financial professionals how to improve their grief literacy communication skills to best serve bereaved clients. She also hosts the One Well Widow podcast, helping widows process their grief and learn from one another.

After experiencing the financial uniqueness of widowhood firsthand and learning that 70% of widows leave their financial advisors within the first year, Kathi leveraged her many years of teaching, coaching, and personal experience to create Grief Smart Advisor as a tool to help professionals retain, connect, and support clients experiencing loss, grief, and widowhood. Through her coaching programs, webinars, workshops, and speaking engagements, she trains leaders to build trust and empathy with their clients so they can support them during the toughest moments of their life.

Kathi earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Education at Montana State University and a Master of Arts degree in Education with a concentration in Kinesiology. Moreover, she is currently a lecturer at California State University, Chico in the Department of Communication and Education where she trains future teachers and athletic coaches. Indeed, Kathi has a passion for motivating leaders to develop communication skills that engage and connect.

Grief Literacy in Practice

In this episode, Kathi shares her personal story of widowhood and how she came to realize the importance of grief literacy. We also talk about the financial challenges women, in particular, tend to face when losing a spouse. And why with a million women becoming widows each year in the U.S., it’s critical for us to prepare for the unpleasant probability that we’ll have to manage our finances on our own one day.

Furthermore, Kathi offers alternative phrases to “I’m sorry for your loss” that may be comforting to people who are grieving. In addition, she shares her thoughts on how to respond if you learn about someone’s death indirectly—for example, through social media.

Meanwhile, be sure to listen to the end, as Kathi explains what she wishes more people understood about grief. Kathi also suggests a variety of resources that can help both widows and advisors to widows.

I really enjoyed my conversation with Kathi Balasek, and I hope you do, too. Whether you’re going through the grieving process yourself or you’re an advisor who works with widows, I think you’re going to find this episode and her unique insights extremely helpful.

Episode Highlights

  • [08:16] What people don’t always know about grieving families, and how they can talk about death better—especially with children.
  • [09:36] Kathi Balasek describes her work as a grief communications coach.
  • [12:37] What is grief literacy?
  • [16:00] Kathi Balasek explains why it’s so important for women to take an active role in their financial lives, even if their partner takes the lead.
  • [19:15] The current state of widowhood in the United States.
  • [22:33] Kathi Balasek shares an example of how she’d train a financial advisor to prepare their women clients for widowhood.
  • [29:54] The differences in how women and men communicate and why they matter for grief literacy.
  • [32:36] Alternative phrases to “I’m sorry for your loss.”
  • [34:22] How to respond when you learn about someone’s death indirectly, like through a Facebook post.
  • [40:24] Why food and practical gifts are better than flowers when someone dies.
  • [43:07] Kathi Balasek shares her tips when it comes to recommending other professionals to their widowed clients.
  • [46:05] The biggest mistake Kathi sees her clients make and the one thing she wishes people understood about grief.
  • [49:20] Recommended resources for widows and advisors of widows.

Links Relevant to this Episode

Kathi Balasek’s Website

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