Comedian Jerry Lewis has said that Allen Klein is “a noble and vital force watching over the human condition.”
Klein (aka “Mr. Jollytologist”® and Ambassador of Light) shows people how to use humor and positivity to deal with life’s not-so-funny stuff. He is an award-winning professional speaker, TEDx presenter, and author of The Healing Power of Humor, The AWE Factor, and Embracing Life After Loss.
Klein is also a former hospice volunteer and Director of the Life-Death Transitions Institute in San Francisco.
The book we discuss in this interview is “Embracing Life After Loss: A Gentle Guide for Growing Through Grief) and the five stages (not those stages) we go through to grow from grief to laughter.
Find Allen at:
Brian Smith 0:00
Close your eyes and imagine
what are the things in life that causes the greatest pain, the things that bring us grief, or challenges, challenges designed to help us grow to ultimately become what we were always meant to be.
We feel like we’ve been buried, but what if, like a seed we’ve been planted
and having been planted, to grow to become a mighty tree.
Now, open your eyes. Open your eyes to this way of viewing life. Come with me as we explore your true, infinite, eternal nature. This is grief to growth. And I am your host, Brian Smith.
Hey everybody, this is Brian back with another episode of grief to growth and today I’ve got with me a fascinating gentleman. His name is Mr. Allen Klein. Comedian Jerry Lewis has said the Allen Klein is a noble and vital force vital force watching over the human condition. Mr. Klein is also known as the jolly otologist and Ambassador of light, and he shows people how to use humor and positivity to deal with life’s not so funny stuff. He’s an award winning professional speaker. He’s a TEDx presenter, and is the author of the healing power of humor. The off factor, and the book we’re gonna talk about today is embracing life after loss. He’s also a former hospice volunteer, and director of the life death and life death transmittance Institute in San Francisco. So with that, I want to introduce everybody to Mr. Allen Klein.
Hi, Brian. How are you? Good. Alan’s Good to have you here today. Hey, you know, I brought I brought a friend with me. I hope it’s okay. Dr. Fauci is here with us. Oh, cool. Dr. Fauci. Yeah.
Brian Smith 1:48
Yeah. He’ll be right here standing by. Yeah, I’m a big fan of Dr. Fauci. Big fan of that. So I want to talk to you about your we talked earlier, before we had started, I asked you about doing comedy, and you said you actually do humor? So the first question I asked you is, what’s the difference between comedy and humor?
No, funny. Humor is an attitude that we have to the world. So we look we look at lighter things.
laughter is another word in there is, is when we see something that kind of tickles our funnybone we start to laugh. And comedy, I think is, um,
you know, I helping it’s the comedians, I helping people find the humor for comedy.
How many would be something that
we find funny, we call it comedy. But the humor is more like looking for comedy. It’s not comedy itself. So it’s, it’s it’s kind of opening yourself up having an attitude of finding the funny or looking changing your attitude to see the comedy in something that maybe not everybody would see the humor in.
Ya know, for an example, I did a lot of research and I there wasn’t very much out there about humor and death, dying and grief. Now, most people would not find anything comedic or anything to laugh about in that circumstance. And so what I was showing people is how to that yes, even in those difficult times, there is humor, there is comedy, and not only use it there, but it can be very beneficial to help us lighten up about loss. Okay, okay. So that’s, that’s my definition. Yeah. When did you come across this idea of looking for looking for humor, and a subject like grief or loss? How did that how did this occur to you?
Well, it happened with my wife, she she got a rare liver disease, primary livret primary biliary cirrhosis, and there was no cure. There was no liver transplants at the time, and the prognosis was about three years. And Brian, needless to say, you’ve lost a loved one you say, you know how difficult that could be? Yeah. But Alan had a great sense of humor and and continued to use it during those three years. Help us lighten up. Give you the example that I often tell other people and she was in the hospital with a copy of playgirl magazine thing with the male nude centerfold. And she said Hey, Alan, I really liked this man this month. Can you this nude man? Can you put on the wall over there by the by the window? And I said, Ellen, this is a hospital. It’s a little risque for that. And she said, Well, maybe right? She said, Why don’t you get a leaf in the plant over there and cover up that part. And Brian, I did that and things so that first were fine for the first day fine for the second day. But by the third day, the leaf starts shriveling up. And we would look at that and we would start to laugh. And I realize after Ella was gone that how much that laughter helped us rise above the situation. And maybe it was only five or 10 seconds. But it gave us a reprieve gave us a perspective. And I realize how humor could do that. And I realized that’s why it’s so vital in death and dying situations. And most people say, Well, how can you laugh at a time like that? And I just saw this the opposite. You know, how can you not laugh at a time like that? Because it was the humor, it was the laughter that helped us rise above the situation.
Brian Smith 6:18
Yeah, and I think that would be something that people would say is, you know, but we don’t like the topic of death and dying anyway. And we don’t like the topic of grief. And I think we feel like we have to go into it, we have to be we have to be serious, you know, we have to be serious about it. So I like the idea of you giving people permission to to lighten up a little bit, you know, to not take life quite so seriously.
Right. And it is serious, and we all losing someone we love. Um, but but what the research is finding is that umur can help us cope with almost any situation. And so maybe this is really vital. In in this kind of pressure, what some people call tragic situation is, we need a little bit of reprieve we need to put that that grief in the background for a while because we need to continue living. I remember when I was a hospice volunteer, I work with a woman who lost her mother and it was a young woman in her think she was in her 30s. And she lost her mother. And as a volunteer, I was trying to help her get through this situation. But for two years, her life kind of stopped this young woman’s life stop. And I thought this is like a double loss. This is the mother was gone. She died. And now the daughter was not getting on with her life and some sense her life was lost to Yeah. Yeah.
Brian Smith 7:51
So how does your book help us? with that? I know, you mentioned that there are five stages of going from loss to laughter. So what are the stages? And how do we? How do we navigate ourselves through those?
Now I’ll go through them quickly. And then we can go back and look at them if we want. Yeah, in more detail. Okay, so I didn’t know if you know, who your listeners know, Kubler Ross was yesterday, working death and dying. And she talked about five stages. So I thought if coupla Ross has five stages I want I want five stages. Mine all began with an L. So it’s losing to realize that life does not go on forever, that we’re all gonna die, that loss is part of life. And I thought, what if we live forever? What would that be like? This planet would be it’s already overcrowded in some areas, there are already food shortages in some areas. Imagine if we all live forever, it would be a disaster. So on some level, I think nature is as a way of like cleaning out, you know, vacuuming some of the dust there by by having death in it. No death, one losing death is part of life. I think we have to realize that. Second second now is learning. You know, we usually don’t learn a lot when things are going well. It’s when things are not going well. Like in loss that we could learn our greatest lessons, how to be more loving, how to be more caring, how we only live for relatively even if we lived 100 relatively short amount of time in the bigs universal span of time. And then it’s important that we learn from that and that none of us know when we’re gonna die and therefore we need to be kinder to other people. We need to do what we want to do in life. We need to be more gentle with ourselves and other people, so we can learn certain lessons from loss. I’m sure when your daughter died, you learn you learn some things about yourself about life.
Brian Smith 10:12
I’m still learning. It’s been six years. Yeah.
Yeah, so, um, I think death is like a wake up call about our own life because we get sometimes we go through life where we’re even doing a roadshow, you know, we don’t pay attention. And I think his death is like a knock on the head, like, you’re gonna die someday to pay attention to what you’re doing, you know, in the world. So I think learning is the second l losing learning, and then letting go, you know, we need to move on, as I mentioned, the daughter and her mother just recently that, you know, she just got stuck for two years. Hmm. So in order to get out, we need to get on with life, we need to start letting go. And I think in my book, I talk about two ways of letting go. One is to forgive. And around death and dying, that could be a lot of forgetting to forgive ourselves for not being able to help the person who died, forgiving other people for not knowing what to say, when someone dies, you know, there’s all kinds of forgiving that we could do around death and dying. And then the other is gratitude, being grateful? Well, maybe what that other person taught us. I know, when my wife died, I learned so much about being grateful for my wife was very gregarious, so to, to being grateful for the friends and family and the love that was around but also to be grateful for my wife teaching me to get out there in the world. You know, to be more open to be more look for you, we talked about my other my recent book, The off factor, but how to how to find that the wonder and the amazement in life, because life is so is so can be so joyous. So I learned a lot. And then the fourth L. So losing learning, letting go living. And at some point, yes, it’s important to grieve. I’m not saying it’s not important, but we need to go on and live again. And I think one of the ways that people have lost someone could do that is to volunteer, because they think when we’re helping others, we can help ourselves to start to get back to life again, that that it really helps us. Not focus so much on ourselves, but focus on giving to other people. Yeah, so i think i think that’s living. And then finally finally coming to laughter. You know, that I’m just getting more laughter in our life. And that actually, there was this a research that shows they did a two year study newage banano is the researchers name, he wrote a sim one of his books, I forget the title.
But he did a two year study of spouses who are grieving the loss of the other spouse. And they found that those spouse, the survivors that could find something to laugh about in the while grieving, did so much better. Two years, the test was a two year study. So that tested them two years later, and they did so much better.
People found laughter while grieving than those people who didn’t find anything to laugh about during those two years. Yeah. So it you know, it’s so it’s so important. I’m not saying tears are not important. But I noticed people go some people go, Oh, I can’t laugh and they feel guilty about laughing. Yes. It doesn’t mean that your loved one will think less of, you know, in fact, I did a small study of people when I was writing the book of you know, what people wanted their loved ones to do after that person had died and and I’d say nine over 90% of the people said, my loved one would not want me to be upset for a long time. They want me to grieve, but no but to go on with my life, particularly if they had children. They wouldn’t want their children to be The somber you know, for years and years and years, they want to enjoy life to laugh again. And and have a good time. Yeah, even even the law, the dead spouse, you know, they, the survivor thought wanted them to be more joyous.
Brian Smith 15:18
Yeah, you know, it’s interesting because you bring up an interesting kind of paradox, I think we go for, we know that our, that our, our spouse, or a loved one who’s who has died, would want us to be happy. But we feel guilty about being happy. We feel like we, you know, we shouldn’t allow ourselves to have that we’re supposed to be sad. This is what is this is what it’s supposed to be like, and I’m not honoring them if I if I am if I’m happy. And that’s Frankly, I thought that I had with my daughter, my daughter died that that, you know, because I love her so much that I could never be happy again. And I think that’s a very, very, from the people I’ve talked to. That’s a very common feeling that people have.
Yeah. And I would think that one of you could, which that because it’s all up here. It’s all how we’re relating to loss. Switch that Okay, so she was fairly young. I’m sure she was very playful as a kid. When she want you to be playful. And and you know, remember the laughs You had together? Yeah. Why you had together? Yeah,
Brian Smith 16:28
yeah. Well, let’s go back. Let’s go back through those again. Because I think there’s a very important things about being intentional about as we as we process through our grief as we go through it. So the first you know, first L is losing. And I would I would frame that as more maybe acceptance of reality that I’m in now, because this, this is a thing that happened, this is a thing that does happen. You know, it’s interesting, you mentioned that we seem to be surprised by death, even though we all know that we’re at Sunday, this Sunday, this is going to happen. I was speaking with someone just a couple days ago. And this is a person who was with someone like the love of their life. And they said, it wasn’t supposed to be like this, we were supposed to go together. And I said to this person, how often does that happen? When we when we get married? And we say till death do us part? Kind of No, that’s probably not going to be we don’t typically both go together. So it’s just accepting this reality of this existence, that grief is going to be part of it.
Right? And yeah, and that everything that lives dies, you know. So I want to turn to my book here, because I have the reason I wrote the book, The I’m trying to There we go. So we could see the cover. loss. Yeah. reason I, when my wife was dying I or after she died, you know, I was in I was in severe grief. And I was looking for books that would inspire me that would kind of hold my hand that would lift me up with inspirational quotes, or thoughts or stories or comments. And what I found was mostly books to what two to 300 pages or more thick, they told me how I would not be doing well that I would probably lose my appetite that I might be depressed, that I might lose my sleep. And I thought I don’t need to hear this, you know, I I wanted something uplifting, I wanted something where I could just open the book and read something that would have led me to uplift me for the day that would motivate me to go on. And so I did this book that has you know, each page has a thought has a quote, has something that people could just think about and in their life, and help them move on with their life. So that’s, that’s the structure. You know, I brought this this was kind of amazing. When my wife was dying. I went to a therapist, because it was a three year process. And it was it was pretty severe. And, you know, I was pretty down. And after the second session, he told me, well, Allen, life is difficult. And I got up and I left the office said, I’m not paying you whatever it was in those days. To tell me life is difficult. That is exactly what I’m experiencing. We I know this. Yeah, yeah. I noticed. So often books or other people, you know, tell you stuff, you know, and I don’t think people that agree we need to hear that. No. Let me just turn to here’s a quote that I like. It’s kind of a reminder that people I will I love ones live forever. In some sense, the body’s gone, but the Spirit lives on. And so this is by Helga Braun, the poet. He said, The life of stars that were extinguished ages ago, still reach us. So it is with great men who died centuries ago, but still reach us with the radiation of their personalities. Yeah, I know a lot. You know, those people, they’re still around, I feel my wife is still around the crown. On some levels. I think maybe you feel your daughter is still around?
Brian Smith 20:41
Oh, absolutely do. Yeah, yes, I absolutely do. And it’s interesting. I come from that perspective, where I believe that we are eternal beings, I think we don’t, we don’t really die. But even if you don’t, you know, the fact is that memory of that person is still with you, and will always be with you, as long as you’re here. And you can always you can always draw on that you can always, you know, talk to them and carry them forward with you. So again, back to that first L of losing. And when you when you got to the third L of lending guy was a little bit nervous, because the idea of letting go of my daughter is something that I’m never going to do, but you you’ve talked about forgiveness, you talked about having a spirit of gratitude. Because
in traditional grief counseling many years ago, they would tell you, okay, just get over, it’s the relationship is over, you need to accept reality, and you need to move on that person is gone. And they found that that method of grief counseling, frankly, didn’t really work. Because it’s like you said, it’s like going to a therapist is telling you what you already know, that’s why you’re there. But this idea of being able to bring that person forward with us and that and do things in the memory. I mean, I’m sure your wife, this book you’ve written is a tribute to your wife. It’s a continuation of her legacy.
I should tell you his story, when I when I first was doing humor, and death and dying, workshops and stuff. I wasn’t sure this is what I should be doing, particularly because I almost fail speech in college. So for me to get up and speak in front of a group was like, terrifying. So I was doing this three hour workshop, and there was a break in the middle. And just before the break, I happened to look away in the back in the corner, there was a woman that looked exactly like my wife. And in fact, I got goosebumps, you know, it was one of those goosebumps moments. And, and I thought to myself, well, the breaks coming up in five minutes. I’ll go and speak to this woman because this is kind of spooky. Yeah. And the break came and I started to go to this woman and somebody tapped me on the shoulder and asked me a question. I turned around and chatted with them. Hearing back that woman was gone. And she never came back after the break. Huh. Well, wherever she was there or not? I don’t know. Yeah. Well, what I was thinking about it later. And I thought it almost didn’t matter if she was there or not what for me at least it was my wife telling me that what I’m doing what I’m, you know, is the right thing. And I should continue to do it. It’s going to help a lot of people. And it’s awesome. That’s awesome. Yeah. So
Brian Smith 23:34
you’re speaking start after your wife passed? Is that when you started doing because you’ve you’ve done TEDx talks, and you’ve done all kinds of speaking that is that when it started,
right? See, I had this path, right? And I have this passion, because umur helped. Both her and me deal with the process again, lots of tears, but humor was pretty predominant about laughter and, and just almost kind of trying to go on with a life in spite of what was happening. Enjoy life in spite of it. It was just go time. So we used to go disco dancing, things like that. So after she died, I just had this passion to share. You know how we laugh together? Yes. We cried a lot together then. But we also laughed a lot. And when we were married after about 10 years, we would question why we still together. And one of the things she would tell me is because I always made her laugh. Hmm. I hadn’t realized that. But it was. So I thought laughter was such an important element in our relationship. Yeah. And here it came up again during her terminal illness and how it helped us. I need to share this with the world. Yeah. And so I just started as, as afraid as I was getting up and speaking, you know, I got up and talked about it. And then I joined the National Speakers Association and one conference I went to. I don’t think that was true. But what I heard almost every speaker say, if you want to get ahead in the speaking business, you need a book, you need to write a book. Yeah, yeah. And I thought, I need to write a book about the healing power of humor, tell the world about it. And so, you know, I wrote the healing power of humor, it’s now in a 40 of printing and a ninth foreign language translation. So it was said, at a passion to share my experience with the world is is how this all happened.
Brian Smith 25:51
Yeah. Well, you brought up the several good points there. And I think one is about, you know, an idea of balance, you know, life, it’s not all tears, and it’s not all laughter. It’s, it’s both and we have to feel all of the emotions and and so when we’re going through these, these dark days that we’re going through, it’s okay to take a little break, you know, to have some humor to, you know, to laugh and, and to make memories even while you’re going through that time. It doesn’t have to all just be over when you know, we’re going through that
way. Let me go to the back of the last section, the book the laughter since you wrote it up. And you know, I wrote this book A while ago. So I have to refresh my memory. And I’ve written several books, since I understand. At least you’re not one of those interviewers, I was on the radio when the healing power of humor first came out, and he said, I love that story on page 83. Would you tell it to us?
Yeah. 80 I don’t know what 183. So I understand.
Yeah, so you know, you have a book? I do. Yeah. Yeah. Which is
Brian Smith 27:05
what it’s called grief to growth. Planet, a planet not buried as a subtitle. So it’s about getting through grief and growing from it. Wonderful. So
you know, about helping people through writing and through your podcasts? Yeah, that’s wonderful work. Yeah. So you know, here’s a little thing a laughter and loss. And, you know, we think we can, but how often have you been at a funeral and you look in the coffin, and people go, oh, they’ve never looked so good. You know, I kind of kind of crazy um, or a hospital gown. You know, you think now I know why they call it I see you. Because, you know, open in the back. You know, Tombstone, there’s a lot of funny tombstones, one of them that I like, is the I told you I was sick.
Brian Smith 27:59
Yeah, that’s my favorite.
Yeah. So, you know, there is laughter there. It’s, it’s, you know, um, let’s, let’s see what else I wrote in this section. The power of humor. Alright, just just some instruction about finding. Hold on, give me give me Oh, I love this quote. This is by the editor of the New Yorker. And I love what he said about cartoons in humor. He said they are not for the good times. Therefore all the bad frustrations, annoyances and things bordering on the horrible that happened. And they’re even for the horrible things that happened to other people. It’s a certain little anestesia of the heart, which is necessary. So he talks about humor as being anestesia of the heart.
Yes, I love I love what he said about
we’ll get back to grief to growth in just a few seconds. Did you know that Brian is an author and a life coach. If you’re grieving or know someone who is grieving his book, grief to growth is a best selling easy to read book that might help you or someone you know, people work with Brian as a life coach to break through barriers and live their best lives. You can find out more about Brian and what he offers at WWW dot grief to growth.com www dot g ri e f the number two gr o w th calm. If you’d like to support this podcast visit www.patreon.com slash grief to growth www.patren.com slash g ri e f, the number two gr o w th to make a financial contribution. And now back to grief to growth.
Brian Smith 30:12
I think that’s extremely important. And they even started out you know, humor is not necessarily for the good times it’s for it’s for the bad times, it’s during those times you mentioned that we move when you move first opening about needing that little bit of escape, sometimes from the from the bitterness of life and balancing that out. And you talked about it, you talked about the letting go, you talked about forgiveness, and gratitude. And those are two really key things I found when you’re going through grief, that people really need to really understand that forgiveness is, is so important that letting go of blame and guilt. And a lot of times especially it’s forgiveness for ourself. It’s like, you know, we have to understand that we did everything that we could do, we did the best that we could do at the time, that nobody is omniscient or omnipotent, or omnipresent, that we you know, if the doctors that might have, you know, why couldn’t they have saved her? Now? All those types of things? No, they don’t serve us. So we need to learn to know to let go of those things.
Right? Yeah, I have a number of pages for you know, forgive. Forgive yourself. forgive your loved one for dying. Yeah, the very basic thing, you know, that’s an important. Yeah, forgive the doctors. That’s a big thing. I remember, when the doctor told my wife that she had a terminal illness. It was it was kind of weird. But he stood at the door of the hospital room, rather than coming to the bed to tell him, there was something inside of him that fear death, you’re telling people of their terminal illness? So on some level, I had to forgive him. Yes, I had to forgive people who turned away from her at the time. But they were dealing with a lot. She was young, she was 34 and 31. When we found out, wow, they were young, you know, they realize that if she’s ill that maybe I, you know, this could affect me on some I could die young too. So a lot of people are afraid of their own death. So
Brian Smith 32:24
you know, we need to forgive them for not showing up when we needed them. Yes, there was just so many things to forgive, there there are but you know, the thing is interesting, because I’ve talked to people that say, Well, I can’t forgive and I can’t, I can’t let go of that their maybe their son or the daughter was was murdered, or you know, something else. And the thing that people really understand is forgiveness is not for the other person. It’s not like we’re asking you to do this, you know, there’s great acts of humanity, it’s for you, it’s for you to let go of this. Because, you know, holding on to that anger, I forgot who said it’s like carrying around a hot coal and expect it to burn the other person, or like drinking poison expecting the person to die, it’s only hurting you. And when we can practice forgiveness, it praise us, you know, there’s, there’s, we actually when we when we are holding a grudge against somebody, we’re actually creating a bond with that person. And we’re dragging them around with us, you know, in a very real conscious way. And when we forgive them, we released that box, and we let that go.
Yeah, this is story, I have a one of my other books about a teacher teaching the class about forgiveness, and she had them take a potato sack and put potatoes in it and then carry it around the room. And then she had a one by one takeout of potato, you know, of who they want to forgive, and how much lighter that thing they were carrying around became, it was such a visual to me, and it was such a visual thing to teach kids how to forgive. I thought it was wonderful.
Brian Smith 34:07
It is I think it’s I think it’s really wonderful. You know, the thing, and that’s a great example, that shows it’s not necessarily for that other person, you know, when it’s, you know, Jesus said, you know, forgive 70 times 70 like, that’s a lot, you know, people are just going to abuse me and you know, I can’t I can’t do that. And I’ve actually gotten to the point I’ve read several people talking about now they practice pre forgiveness. I was interviewing a gentleman peer pressure savant. And he was talking about I just forgive everybody of everything. I just practice forgiving people before they even do things that are wrong. So now it’s to the point now it’s like I don’t I don’t have to worry about it.
Yeah, I I love you know what you’re just saying i wanna i want to move to gratitude because I do a pre gratitude. Like, one specific example. I was going to Europe and I applied for upgrades on United Airlines add a lot of miles but they wouldn’t give them out until the day of the trip. So for a month above my computer I put Thank you United Airlines for upgrading me as if it already happened.
Brian Smith 35:19
And it’s a long story, but after two cancel flights, the third flight I was upgraded. Oh, wow. So I believe in a lot in gratitude and a lot in being grateful, even before it happens, but what you want to happen? Yeah, the other thing about gratitude, what I found is the more I’m grateful for the good stuff in my life, the more good stuff comes into my life.
Brian Smith 35:51
Yeah, I think that’s absolutely true. And again, you know, people that are that are early in their loss. And the grief might say, well, there’s nothing to be grateful for, you know, I, my son or daughter just died, my wife just died, I just got this terminal diagnosed, I just lost my job, you know, whatever it happens to be. And the thing is, no matter where we are, there’s something to be grateful for. There’s always something to be grateful for. And I was I was talking with someone the other day, we were talking about Viktor Frankl, the book, he wrote in a search Man’s Search for Meaning that he wrote, you know, right after he got out of the concentration camp, and you can find meaning in that, or, you know, you read, I have personally interviewed for my show Terry Dillion, who has ALS, you know, terminal illness, and she’s like, in her early, mid 30s. And so when you look at people like that, if they can find something to be grateful for, then then we can and this. And so I actually, for me, it’s like you said, it’s a practice I, every day, when I wake up, I’m like, what are three things I’m grateful for. And it might be, my house is warm in the winter, or my house is cool in the summer. Now I was in the bathroom this morning, I was like, What a miracle to have electricity. Just, you know, be grateful for it when you have because when the power goes out, then you realize what a miracle is when you have it. So why not be grateful for it while you have it? Right?
I had a wonderful teacher, that’s one said, to want, which you don’t have is to waste what you do have. And I think that’s so, so relevant during the pandemic, you know, if people will have been out to eat in the restaurant, or you know, to, okay, you don’t have that, but you have food in your house. I know a lot of people learn how to cook. Yeah, and the pandemic. So be grateful for that. And you’re right there too, when my wife died. You know, it was it was difficult at the beginning. But then I start realizing I start looking at all the things I still had, I didn’t have her, that was the not so great part. But I still had my daughter, I still had a work that I enjoyed doing. I still had a house to live in. You know, I still had really good friends, I still had food on the table, I still lived in the city that I wanted to live in, I mean, on and on and on. So I think I think one of the things people who are grieving a loss is to kind of put that loss in the background for a bit and look at all the stuff in front of you that you have.
Brian Smith 38:31
Well, I think that’s the human condition by default. And it’s part partly built in because you know, that’s why humans are always striving for more, because we’re always looking, how could I do this better work. And that’s a good thing. So that’s not a bad thing to have. But it can actually bring us down unless we learn to balance it out. And that’s where the practice comes in. As you said, You know, I can I can always say, you know, I don’t have my wife, I don’t have my daughter. I just lost my job. But COVID is a great example. I can’t go out to eat in a restaurant. Okay, so but you have food you can cook at home, and how much money have you saved over this last year? And how much sweeter is it now that we can go out I went out with friends a week ago this past Saturday for the first time in over a year. And we went out to some some microbreweries and we sat in chairs by the river watch people kayaking by and it was I’m getting goosebumps just talking about it. But it was so much sweeter than when I could do it every every weekend.
Yeah, I love how you label it’s so much sweeter it is and it’s like walking in the street. I’m fully vaccinated if I choose not to wear a mask in that is just it’s like all these little things that we never thought about when they’re taken away from us and now they’re coming back and they’re much sweeter. Yeah, I was actually forced to eat inside of a restaurant because they didn’t have heat outside and the heaters were And it was terribly windy and things of blowing away. And it was like, Oh my god, can I do it? You know? Yeah. But that the doors open and seated people away from each other and it was fine, but it was like, Oh, this is what it was like,
Brian Smith 40:17
in the before times. Yeah.
Yeah, sir. It’s, it’s, yeah, um, so just appreciate, you know, be great. Full, I think for what you have the and you don’t know when it’s gonna be taken away from you. Right? You know like like with all these things we’re missing or have missed in the last year.
Brian Smith 40:36
Yeah, well, I guess it goes back to what you said at the very beginning, we talked about death kind of being baked in, in this whole thing. And what would it be like if we live forever? Part of the part of the beauty of life is, is the fragility of life. Part of the beauty of it, one of the reasons why we do embrace things is because we don’t know when they’re going to be taken away. And you think about all the things we do in breathing, walking, that we just take for granted, you know, because we just assume, oh, this is what I’ve been doing. This is what I always be able to do. Right? So and you
know, what amazes me is that our life really is dependent on one breath. If you stop one breath, that’s it. Yeah. And one of my great teachers, I don’t know if you know, his book, Steven Leviathan, he wrote who dies among other books? But he used to do a lot of workshops I do, I would manage some of them. And he would always ask, Are you going to die in an in breath? Or an out breath? I can’t say much more about that. Except I thought it was very profound Kind of, yeah, that’s all it will take. All it will take is one in breath or out breath. And that’s it. No more.
Brian Smith 41:55
Yeah, yeah. Well, you know, there, there will be a last breath, there will be a last heartbeat for all of us. We don’t know when it’s going to be for most of us. And so that’s why we, you know, embrace the life while we have it. And we try to find humor, where we can and try to find gratitude where we can. And that’s what that’s kind of what life is about is balancing these things out. You got it. Yeah. So, you know, we, we talked about, we’re talking about the book embracing life after loss, but and when another one books I wanted to talk about a little bit was the healing or the awe factor. I find it really, really fascinating. I think it kind of really ties in with with the last thing.
Yeah. So this healing power of humor was my first book, this is my last book, the author factor. And I wrote it because there were so many simple things in my life that gave me goosebumps or made me realize the beauty all around us, maybe particularly during COVID. Um, and, um, I realize I don’t often stop and smell the roses, you know, don’t stop and and pay attention. So I started interviewing people, I started looking at my life, what were those aha moments, what were those wow moments, and have some incredible stories in here, but just from my own life. And some of this I talked about in my TED Talk, which is about intention, setting your intention, but I’m just finding the publisher was an aha moment. It’s a very long story. So I’m not going to go into it. But I’m walking in a bookstore to do a book signing and this woman is totally crying at the counter because she lost her husband and taking her aside for a half hour and chatting with her and hugging her. And giving her some guidance. That was an aha moment, just just being, you know, walking in a store, just you know, I could have been five minutes late, she might have left or vice versa, right? Same thing. I was on top of Yosemite going up to Vernal falls, and somebody was coming down the other path and he looks at me and he goes, Alan, I didn’t recognize him. It was one of my apprentices. 40 years before when he was an apprentice when I was I used to be a scenic designer in summer stock and I was the designer. Wow, what what is that? Not an aha moment? I mean, what are the chances of us being right at that split second? together? Yeah. So so things like it’s all around Flowers just an amazed me. Because when you look inside of flower, it’s often very different and so amazing I, in fact, I took a photo of an iris that was in my garden recently. And it’s just amazing. Yeah, all of the textures. I put on Facebook and somebody said it looks like a dancing Iris.
Brian Smith 45:27
It does. Now you can see the motion in it.
Yeah, it just so. And nature, by the way, is the is the biggest generator of all. And the reason I wanted to write this book is the research. One that came out last September is they found that they sent two groups of people, older people, or walks 15 minutes a day, once a week for eight weeks. And then they did some tests with them. And they found those people that they were told to find some on their walk or something that was wonder amazing for them, that they had more positive emotions, less negative emotions, that they said they were less upset and that they were happier. And the other group said when they went on their walks, they will often focused on some of the stress in their life, some of the negative stuff in their life. Yeah, so just looking, just having that intention of finding a little bit of wandering your life could could make you much happier and healthier.
Brian Smith 46:38
Yeah, I think it was Einstein that said that. You can look at life as either everything’s a miracle or nothing is a miracle. And in the book, yes, the older I get. And this is wild, because I’m an engineer, my backgrounds, chemical engineering, so I’m a very logical kind of person. But the older I get, the more I think the universe is magical. And you talked earlier about, you know, the pre gratitude thing, which some people call the law of attraction. And so the question is, when we do we practice is gratitude that we practice on is more are coming into our lives, are we just noticing more on it’s already there, because everything can become a miracle, I walk for an hour and 45 minutes every day. And I take my phone with me, of course, and I take pictures of the squirrels, or the birds or whatever. And I’m looking around and it’s just so you know, I just I love watching the squirrels, I think the school squirrels are so cool, and just, you know, watching their lives. And so the more that I do stuff like this, the more comes into your life, and I’m with the group called helping parents heal, and we’re all parents whose children have transitioned or died. And, you know, we look for synchronicities and signs. And you talked about a couple of things that have happened to you. It’s it’s crazy the synchronicities that have happened to me, the things that have come into my life, the timing of things that have happened, and how things just start to kind of open up when you start to look for those things.
Yeah, it’s funny what you said about your walk because I just finished teaching a five week class on the book. No. And I gave them a homework of the students a homework assignment each week. So one week was actually take that all walk just like in the in the study, and come back with things that are then which they did. But the second week, I just had the meander, just go out, don’t have an intention of all just go out and walk and see what happens. And they came back just like the intention. They were now like, trained almost, to look for the things that was a wow moment for them.
Brian Smith 48:46
Yeah, once you set that and make it a habit, that’s, that’s what I like about your your books, because it’s making these things habits making them intentional. Because by default, we can go to what was me? Look at what I don’t have, you know, I there’s no, there’s no beauty in the world. You know, I’ve described it when someone passes. My world was black and white. And then that happened to me, so I understand it. But it’s getting that color back in the world. It’s getting that it’s really recognizing what’s going on around us. And that Yeah, there are still good things in my life, there’s still things that are still worth, you know, pursuing. And in your case with your wife, you know, passing we were very young age, launching you in this completely different trajectory than you probably would have been on otherwise.
Right. Right. You know, some Sometimes I wish I can go back in my life and do it over and see what would I be doing now? Yeah, you know, what would my you can tell? We don’t know. We don’t know. You know, so. Yeah, go ahead. No,
Brian Smith 49:49
go ahead. You.
Well, some people asked me two things. How do I know when something is odd to me and I go and I think came up with an Aquaman ah is a W e. So if you have a wow experience, you found some all. Yeah. And the other thing people have asked, well is in our one on one interview, is it all connected to gratitude? And I say gas? Absolutely. Because if you if I can look at that flower, and I’m grateful for it growing in my garden and being part of my life that in it asked me And so yeah, there is a connection.
Brian Smith 50:33
Yeah. I remember when my girls were little. We will my my wife, which is dandelions in the yard, right? The girls are like, why are you killing the dandelions? And we said, because they’re weeds? And they said, No, they’re pretty, you know, they’re pretty yellow flowers. And I was reading something today about, like, how you can use every part of the dandelions, it’s all you know, useful and beneficial. And, and so now, you know, since they’d said that, I looked at Daniel lines completely differently now. And I’m like, What is a weed, but something that’s growing, where it’s supposed to grow, where we don’t want it to grow? And it’s only a weed because of our attitude, it’s only a weed because of the way we look at it. And so when someone asked you, but what’s an aha moment? For me, it’s like, well, that’s really up to you. And the more you do it, the more everything becomes, you know, I you know, we’ve got carpenter bees here now, which are annoying, and we’ve got the cicadas that are coming now. 17 years, okay, that cycle, but it’s like, what kind of a creature lives underground for 17 years, and then comes up and lives for six weeks and sins and and dies? There’s something beautiful about that, that cycle, even though there’s so annoying.
Yeah, yeah. So yeah, as you said, Einstein said, everything’s a miracle. You can live your life that way, it will totally change your life. Yeah, you know, and if you if you wake up, you know, looking for the miracles every day, you’re gonna find them will totally change your life.
Brian Smith 51:58
Yeah. And it’s a choice. And that’s the thing that I’ve realized, whenever I try to communicate to people is, it’s a choice, we can look at life as if it’s, it’s random. And it’s cruel. And it’s harsh, and there’s lots of evidence to support that. Or we can look at life as if it’s miraculous, and everything is just as it should be. And there’s lots of evidence to support that, too. So it’s really what do you decide what how do you decide you want to live your life? How do you want to look
at it? And you know, in laws, you can you can celebrate a life that was, well, you can mourn that life forever? And it’s up to you.
Brian Smith 52:38
Yeah, yeah, exactly. And with my daughter, she was only here on this planet for 15 years, but she she made and still making a huge impact. And, you know, I’ve decided that as if it was a choice, I have decided that I’m going to, you know, continue to carry on what she started. And so, you know, with, again, with your wife that such a, you know, people say, Oh, such a tragic thing. And in a sense, it is, but and we don’t know what our lives would be like otherwise, you said, If I could go back and do it again, we don’t. We don’t even know. There’s a great movie from several years ago, called the butterfly effect, where someone could go back and change things. And we don’t, we don’t anticipate all the other things that would change. If we just changes one little thing we always assume life would have turned out better if I could have done this. But the reality is, we don’t know.
Yeah, we don’t know. We don’t. And I realized, you know, even though I said I feel speech in college and get nervous getting up in group, I mean, I spoken to as many as 1500 people, you know, in Grand Old Opry, auditorium and ballroom could hardly see the back of the room, you know, was I nervous? I was scared stiff, of course. But my passion as I said, I had to give this message to the audience. They’re getting, we’re getting too serious folks. Lighten up. Yeah. And, and I feel like I’ve been guided to do this. And so I continue. I continue to do it. It’s it’s what I’ve been asked to do by some higher power.
Brian Smith 54:23
Yeah, well, you’re, you’re following the path that you were put on, you know, and sometimes we get to, we feel like we get to choose our pads. This time, we feel like our pads are given to us. And again, it’s a matter of how we how we look at it like, Okay, I’m gonna take lemons and make lemonade if you want to even want to look at it that way. But I I happen to believe that this was the path that I was supposed to be on and that this is what’s supposed to happen. And that someday, I’ll understand why it happened the way it did, but for today, my job is to is to continue to follow.
And you know, that’s another I think coping For someone has lost someone that you’re right in that situation, I was right in my wife having a terminal illness and right in her dying. I could not see past that. Right right now that I could see past it and look back and what I’ve accomplished in the 1000s of people I’ve helped with my books. I mean, I get letters and stuff, how it’s helped people. I see maybe why that happened in the big picture.
Brian Smith 55:29
Yeah. Yeah, that’s the thing. And that’s, that’s, that’s something that we need to remember when we’re going through things. We never see it when we’re going through it. I remember when I got fired for first time, I got fired from a job, my daughter was nine months old. And I’m like, there’s nothing good out of come out of this. I was just getting ready to move. My daughter, literally, like I said, was nine months old, I got fired from my job. I couldn’t see the two that two years down the road, I’d be making more money than I ever made the other company. And it was the most money I’ve ever made, you know, in my career. I couldn’t see that at the time. And so we have to trust as we get older, you know, as you and I get some age on us, we see how things turn out. Okay, so we can have a little bit more faith when something bad happens something quote, bad happens. That Yeah, maybe this is going to be okay, maybe maybe it’ll be alright.
Yeah, and you know, I have a similar thing I as I said, I used to be a scenic designer with CBS television. And I was designing, you may not know, Merv Griffin, Jackie Gleason, and none of those show. You’re moving to the west coast. We were on the east coast. So they’d let go the staff. And then they gave me soap operas to do and I didn’t want to do that. So they took those shows away from me, I had nothing to do and i and i was let go from CBS. And I thought, Oh, this is terrible. This isn’t awful. But it got us to move to the San Francisco where we’ve always wanted to live. My wife was from there. We got a Victorian house that you see part one room, my office in it. You know, things totally changed. And and the better. Yeah. So you know, we just can’t see. Yeah, what’s ahead for us? So we need trust, we need to trust
Brian Smith 57:19
Yeah, and no, it’s, as you said that sometimes those things that we cling to are actually holding us back. You know, and we need to be forced to have them ripped out of our hands. Right. A you know, because now you’ve been in San Francisco for how many years? Now?
It’s been for over 40 years. Yeah, yeah. And now the My house is, you know, worth in this incredible Victorian house in San Francisco that I Who would have ever thought I’d have have this, you know, so,
Brian Smith 57:54
yeah, and that and that’s the thing that I love about your books and the conversation we’re having now because if people can just while we’re in the moment, just relax a little bit and say, it’s gonna be okay. It’s going to be okay. I don’t know how this is gonna work out. I don’t know when it’s gonna work out but it’s going to be okay. And it always is. Here. I
just reaching for right behind my computer, this sign that I have. Mm hmm.
Brian Smith 58:23
Just to remind myself, you know, yeah, I
Brian Smith 58:29
interview a lot of people have had near death experiences and I had a woman on her name is Heidi Craig. And she’s, she’s had an incredibly difficult life and she had this near death experience. And she said, I learned three things. One was, everything will be okay. that everything is okay. And that we’re unconditionally love more than we can ever imagine. And I was like, if we could always remember those three things. And if we could always remember that, you know, no matter what things look like, it’s going to be okay. And that’s that’s the message we get, you know, all these you know, from from spiritual people and seekers, it’s like that. So we just need to learn to trust that as we’re going through all the trials and tribulations we go through, right,
not easy. The more we can you know, remember some of those things, the easier it becomes.
Brian Smith 59:20
Yeah, absolutely. Alan, I’ve really enjoyed having this conversation with you today. It’s it’s great getting to meet you tell people, you remind people of your book, how to spell your name where they can find it.
Right so the books we talked about my first book, the healing power of humor.
The Awe Factor, my latest book.
Last, they’re all on Amazon or your books local bookstore could order it or Barnes and Nobles or you know anywhere online and spelling My name because spelt differently. Sometimes a Ll e n, k l e I n and can go to my website, triple W dot Alan Klein, calm. Awesome, awesome.
Brian Smith 1:00:25
Well Alan again, it’s been a pleasure getting to have this time with you today getting to know you a little bit better. Keep doing what you’re doing, bringing, bringing joy to people in the world we need we need more of that.
Thank you and good luck to you, your book your podcast. I look I look forward to telling other people to to watch it or listen to it.
Brian Smith 1:00:48
Thank you. Alright, enjoy the rest of your day.
Brian Smith 1:00:52
So that does it for another episode of grief to growth. I sure hope you enjoyed it. If you like this content, make sure you subscribe. So click on the subscribe button here and then click on the bell to receive notifications and click on all that way you’ll be notified whenever I release new content. Thanks for watching and have a great day.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai