How to put yourself back together after life-altering setbacks
“When I was 31 my husband passed away very suddenly from a very rare disease most doctors have never seen in their lifetime. This was 8 weeks after I had given birth to my second child. I had a 3-year old and an 8-week old baby when he died. It really shook my world,” said Keisha Blair, Author of Holistic Wealth, Economist and Supermom.
After facing the unimaginable, she took a year off from work to heal and ultimately, reinvent herself. She started by writing the pain and insights she glimpsed from grief. Keisha’s formula for radical recovery, distilled in her new book Holistic Wealth: 32 Life Lessons to Help You Find Purpose, Prosperity and Happiness, incorporates emotional, physical and financial self-care to live in balance.
After years of school, with its gold stars and possibility, we enter life and our choices quickly narrow. Despite persistent wage and leadership gaps for women, we fight to establish ourselves at work. We focus on income and promotions. But we often ignore building wealth and self-care habits, when both are fundamental to having a flexible life. Keisha describes in the book, “Our education system teaches about linearity, not about what to do when this linear pattern breaks, not where to look for resilience, not the art of recovery from disruption. Knowledge that you are living your life well is a resource you can draw on well into your final hours.”
Let’s Talk Financial Resilience
Money, like grief, is one of those sticky subjects we’re taught not to talk or think about too much. Even though our society revolves around it. To engage in real self-care, for a healthy body and strong mind, requires time. Let’s face it, to choose how we spend our time, requires financial comfort. And in a society where women have been conditioned out of economic power, Keisha wants to share what she’s learned, to restore context to key work/life decisions.
Keisha shared, “We get one week of bereavement leave. One week! Even if it’s your husband. That just doesn’t work.” Agreed. Keisha said, “This is where the money conversation becomes so important for women. We tend to outlive our husbands. A paycheck is good, but let’s say you can’t go to work, that you need some time to recover because your world has been shattered.” Exactly! Emotional stamina won’t pay the bills. We need more to rebound from life-changing events. Keisha said, “We don’t discuss money in a way that helps us foster that resourcefulness and resilience. Both are important for women when we talk about overcoming a setback. If the bottom falls out tomorrow, what am I left with to recover?” Especially when the economic divide is wider than ever.
Plan for Financial Independence
Keisha explained, “I figured out early what my financial goals were. I love real estate and decided with my husband we’d invest there. At that time, I was thinking about retirement, I wasn’t thinking about the fact that he would die.” Keisha works for the government and said, “…he was in the private sector and didn’t have a pension, so I was planning for that. When he passed, I used that income to take an unpaid leave from work. It became a lifeline for me!” Her experience made her passionate about financial literacy and she shares her approach in the book. “I’m not considered wealthy by any standard but I’ve honed in on what works for me. I have figured out a lifestyle where I can be financially independent.” Amazing! In her book, a collection of life lessons, she explains how not to rely on a paycheck. She set herself up to have options when she had to make a difficult career decision.
Align Career Success With Your Values
Keisha said, “In my professional life, before my husband died, I had gotten into this executive program. It was a ‘fast track’ to a promotion and then after he died, I had to give it up. And I struggled with that for years because I thought that was my ambition. Am I really okay to give it up?” Sigh. We’re often torn between seizing growth opportunities and the impact to our responsibilities at home. She said, “It’s not just about a salary and a paycheck. The kids were always my priority but after his death they became even more so.” Keisha admits it was hard to accept but then she realized, “If you don’t achieve a certain goal or feel you have to step back, there is more wisdom to be gained from that, than reaching some career ‘point’ at some specified age. I’m so content with that now.” Yes! She added, “It’s about realizing your goals have to align with your values. But when we look at what we have to sacrifice it can be out of whack sometimes. We have our professional lives and we have our lives as Moms. If I have to sacrifice my family time or my kids, then it’s not self-care.” Amen!
Heal Through Creativity
Keisha’s leave of absence was pivotal to rebounding. She said, “I’d gone on this sabbatical and thought, I’m going to have to write this down to make sense of it all. Just to pour out those feelings. Probably about a year afterwards, I knew I wanted to help young widows and people who had gone through life-altering setbacks.” Brilliant. She had already been working on a memoir until the universe intervened. Keisha said, “I wrote this article about my experience that went viral. I wrote about how I walked into the emergency room with my husband and walked out with a white plastic bag. I can still picture it like it was yesterday. Everything in that article was so selfless and vulnerable. I was happy it touched so many but even up to this day I still have a sense of ‘oh my gosh’ about putting it out there. It’s just deeply personal.” I published it and really didn’t think anything would happen and then I got an email from the Editor-in-Chief of Medium, she said it was one of their best stories of the year.” Amazing. Keisha said, “When I went to agents, they said put down the memoir, this is the book that will sell. And they were right. That’s how it started.”
The Gifts of Vulnerability and Perseverance
Keisha said, “It’s taken everything out of me to do this. I would get up some nights and cry and write. I’ll be honest, I started with the memoir and then I redrafted it from scratch like 3 times! I pulled a lot from the memoir, which was good, but I had to create another book. One editor said, ‘you have to start again’ and I literally took months to decide if I wanted to do it. I didn’t want to revisit it emotionally. The process has been grueling. I have made tremendous sacrifices to get this book out.” I nodded. She added, “It’s been through 5 different editors too and I’ve interviewed over 100 experts.” A huge accomplishment under any circumstance but writing about trauma is draining. Keisha said, “It’s been 9 years of hard work. Blood sweat and tears. Lots of tears. When people say they write books in 6 months I’m suspicious because it’s a very arduous process. As a Mother, it’s your nights, it’s early mornings and because this was tied to a personal tragedy there was crying through it.”
Reunite With Your Intuition
Keisha explained her thinking about self-care has also evolved through this experience. “When my husband died, I had 2 kids and felt I had to play Mom and Dad. It felt like it was just all about the kids and I wore myself out. I realize now self-care has to be a priority for me.” Yes! She said, “I started with meditation and prayer on sabbatical. I got up at the same time, 3 am every morning, long before the kids got up. I’d meditate and it was amazing the insights I got from that! I could hone into my intuition more. It’s crazy when you’re not busy and you can rest, your intuition is more powerful. It helps you make good decisions in life.” I smiled. So many Moms are discovering this. She added, “On sabbatical, over the course of a year, I had a lot of time to do thinking about where I was heading. There were so many insights I gleaned from being away from work and the situation. That set me up well that year. A lot of the life lessons from that viral article come from that year. Amazing things happened.” She reconnected with herself and now shares her gifts.
Self-Care for Recovery
Keisha focused on self-care during her year of healing. “I did a lot of exercise, like going hiking and I still do now, but that one year allowed me to dive in. Eating healthy food was a big part of it. During the grief process you’re numb. I was nauseated and had to take time to care for my body, physically and emotionally. It was like coming back from the abyss. That’s exactly what happened.” When I asked Keisha how self-care fits into her life now, she said, “I still do hone in on that intuitive voice. I still pray, meditate and I still try to eat healthy. It’s not as intense as that time on sabbatical. It had to be intense to bring me back then. But the framework, that I talk about in the book, is still there. It’s like a formula for developing resilience and overcoming setbacks. I’m now remarried, back at work and have 3 kids, but it’s who I am and in my DNA. Living a holistically wealthy lifestyle, includes our emotional self, physical health and spiritual self-renewal. All of these key pieces really come together.” Beautiful.
Many thanks to the talented Keisha Blair! Check out her amazing book, Holistic Wealth: 32 Life Lessons to Help You Find Purpose, Prosperity and Happiness and follow her great adventure on Twitter and her website.
Keisha Blair is a best-selling author and trained economist, with extensive experience in the public, private and not-for-profit sectors. She is a graduate of the Executive Leadership Program at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and is the founder of several non-profit initiatives. Keisha has been featured in the New York Times, The Harvard Business Review, Essence Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, and many other publications.