Kim Hamer Unhelpful Statements

Audio Episode

This interview featured Kim Hamer, an HR leader and author who founded 100 Acts of Love to help people support their friends dealing with cancer. She discussed the importance of being specific when offering support and avoiding unhelpful statements. The concept of "receiver's guilt" was also discussed, and the importance of giving from a place of pure intention was emphasized. Kim shared her experience of overcoming depression after her husband's death and the importance of gratitude and community support. She also provided helpful tips for HR teams on supporting employees with cancer.


Action Items

  1. HR teams should review their policies and procedures to ensure they are providing adequate support for employees with cancer.
  2. Encourage employees to be specific when offering support to colleagues dealing with cancer.
  3. Avoid making unhelpful statements that may cause "receiver's guilt."
  4. Emphasize the importance of giving from a place of pure intention.
  5. Encourage employees to practice gratitude and seek community support.
  6. Consider inviting Kim Hamer to speak at future events or meetings.

On April 16, 2009, Kim Hamer watched her 44-year-old husband take his last breath. During his illness and after his death, she was amazed by the helpful ways their
coworkers, bosses, friends, and family supported them. Kim started calling their kind actions "acts of love."
After the death of her husband, Kim, an HR leader, noticed how little guidance leaders received when navigating cancer, health crisis, or death on their team. She knew their lack of knowledge negatively affected morale, employee engagement, and productivity. She set out to change that. Combining her personal experience with her professional knowledge and leadership skills, Kim launched her business to support leaders and coworkers when cancer (or any health crisis) affects a team member.
Kim Hamer is the author of 100 Acts of Love: A Girlfriend's Guide to Loving Your Friend through Cancer or Loss, an easy-to-read book filled with 100 practical, quick, and effective ways to support a friend or coworker. She’s also an HR leader and speaker who lives in Los Angeles, where she tries not to bother her relatively well-behaved college-aged children.

Kim Hamer

[00:00:00] Kim Hamer: You know, my children got to see what it's like to be part of a community. Um, and, and it wasn't just one community we were part of, you know, we had moved all over the country and we had people from all over the country and the places we had lived coming forth to support and help. And, um, it just, you know, it's, it's the type of thing that really blows you away. And I think that I'm really grateful, it sounds really weird, but I'm grateful my husband had cancer. And it doesn't sound right to say it, but I'm also, I guess I'm grateful for the lessons that I've learned from his death. Um, because I,

[00:00:42] Ed Watters: Yeah.

[00:00:43] Kim Hamer: It really gave purpose to my life and I want people to really know and feel how important they are. Every single person who came forward and helped us, it's not the one thing that they did, it's the hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of things that they all did together. And that made a huge difference in my life, a huge difference in the, in my life and the lives of our friends and family. And so to feel that, to remember that, I just wanna remind people that, that you matter. Like you're a single, the single, that buying that bottle of orange juice may not feel like a big deal to you but trust me it is.

[00:01:26] Ed Watters: To overcome, you must educate. Educate not only yourself, but educate anyone seeking to learn. We are all Dead America, we can all learn something. To learn, we must challenge what we already understand. The way we do that is through conversation. Sometimes we have conversations with others, however, some of the best conversations happen with ourself. Reach out and challenge yourself; let's dive in and learn something right now.

[00:02:17] Today we are speaking with Kim Hamer, Kim Hamer is an HR leader and an author. The book she has out is 100 Acts of Love, it's also her company's name. She is the founder of 100 Acts of Love. Could you please introduce yourself, Kim, and let people know just a little more about you, please?

[00:02:40] Kim Hamer: Sure. So the full title of the book is 100 Acts of Love, A Girlfriend's Guide to Loving Your Friend Through Cancer or Loss. And back in 2009, uh, my 44 year old husband died from cancer. Um, we had three children at the time who were 12, 9, and 7. And as I'm sure some of your listeners can imagine, it was a horrific experience. You know, a horrific time in our lives. But something happened while he was sick and after he died, our community came together and it was a community.

[00:03:13] I didn't really understand that I was even part of a community, I think most of us don't even realize we're parts of communities. But our community came together and did amazing things to help us. Um, and things like, you know, um, one friend called me one day and said, you know, she said, I'm at the grocery store,

[00:03:33] open up your refrigerator and tell me what five things you're almost out of, right? And, and they took the kids places and they got the rides to school, and they got my husband rides to the cancer treatment center, and they of course brought meals. But they did so much more and I was really blown away because every time they did something, it was like they were saying, We love you.

[00:03:54] It was like an act of love. So they would say, you know, put a cooler by the front door so you don't have to answer it when someone brings you a meal. Here's an act of love. You know, someone would say, um, I'm gonna send a handyman over to fix that shelf that you're having trouble with, here's an act of love, right? Everything felt like an act of love. And so several years after he died, I, um, wrote the book and I wrote it with the idea of you, we all hear the, you know, the stats, one in two or one in three of us is going to get cancer. Well, if that's the case, what are the other two going to do to help and support their friend?

[00:04:28] Most people don't have any idea of what to say and how to be supportive. We've got like two or three things in our heads and that's it. And I wanted to give everyone the opportunity to love up on a coworker or a friend who's dealing with cancer or really any type of difficult situation. Because it really made a difference in my life and in the lives of our children.

[00:04:52] And, and I honestly believe that my husband left this earth feeling comforted knowing that we were being well taken care of by our communities. Um, so that's how I started that, you know, that part of my chapter and then as I, as you said in the introduction, I actually went back to work in HR. And when I noticed in HR, mirrored what I noticed in life. Is managers and HR teams are clueless on what to do and how to be supportive to an employee who goes to cancer.

[00:05:24] And here's the thing about cancer, 46% of new cancer diagnosis happened between the ages of 25 and 64. That's almost half of prime working years, and yet we, we separate it out like it's, you know, our friend has cancer and our friend has a job. But the job does, you know, now that, you know, our friend, we as a friend don't know what to do to help us support the person with cancer, and neither does anybody in the workforce. So now I focus on supporting HR teams and managers on supporting not just employees with cancer, but themselves and their teams who are affected by cancer.

[00:06:04] Ed Watters: That's a huge job. You've stated that 46%, ages 25 to 64, those people are highly productive in the workforce. You didn't mention the 80% that actually get diagnosed with cancer and they intend to stay in the workforce. And, and, and then you also stated that people don't know how to really respond to this. Cancer? It's like, oh crap. You know, I, I, I have been a supervisor for many years, but I was never faced with a situation like that in the workforce. And that could be devastating. And I find it interesting some of the comments you make about the statements that we say.

[00:07:10] Kim Hamer: Yes.

[00:07:11] Ed Watters: You say like, How can I help you? You know, can I help you in any way?

[00:07:19] Kim Hamer: Right.

[00:07:20] Ed Watters: That, that never dawned on me until I started researching Kim. It's like, well, I never thought of that. I, I've been a rude person for so long and really didn't notice myself not being in tune or sympathetic to the nature. I was always in tune with, get the job done, what are you here to do? It's work and if, if you're not gonna work, what are you doing here?

[00:07:59] Kim Hamer: Yes.

[00:07:59] Ed Watters: You know, that, that's always the attitude. And really, until I got injured at work and suffered myself in many ways, it didn't dawn on me to be empathetic towards what's actually happening there. So how, how, how do you deal with this as an HR representative?

[00:08:26] Kim Hamer: Well, I'm so glad you asked, Ed . Um, one of the things I often say, so there's three things, the first thing is I teach people what not to say and what to say. And the common phrase that we all say, which is what you alluded to, is some version of if you need anything, let me know. And it feels like it's a really helpful statement and even as a manager of an employee, it feels like you're really being very helpful. But the reality is that's actually one of the worst statements you can make and there's three reasons for that. One,

[00:08:58] what is anything, right? I mean, let's think about this, anything is such a big word. And if you're talking to your employee, what, you know, did you mean you were gonna get me groceries or did you mean that you'd take over my, finish my project for me? Like, what is anything? It's too big a word. The second reason it's not helpful, exactly.

[00:09:21] The second reason it's not helpful is because when you say anything, you are asking the person who is already under a great amount of stress to take apart their life and break it down into a bite size chunk and then to offer you a chunk, right? So, Ed, I don't know you very well and if I said to you, and, and, and, and, and you said, Hey, Kim, I'm happy to do anything for you.

[00:09:44] I'd be like, I, I, I like, I don't know what that means? Like, well, I could use some help running the report, or I could use some help getting my podcast out, is that something you'd be willing to do? So you're asking me to take apart my life and to find one chunk that you might be willing to help me with. And [00:10:00] the third thing, the third reason it's not helpful,

[00:10:02] let's just say that I do figure out that one thing. Now, here I am feeling extremely vulnerable. My world is being rocked right now, the, you know, the bottom has been pulled out from underneath me, and now you're asking me to go to you with extremely vulnerability to ask you to do something that you may not even want to do.

[00:10:22] Because the reality is we all know that you didn't mean anything. You meant it in the moment, but really did you mean it? And I'm, I always talk about, you know, I had a toddler when my husband was first diagnosed with cancer. Did you mean that you were gonna take your beautiful brand new, just cleaned car and drive up to the school and pick up my vomiting toddler?

[00:10:40] Is that what you meant? Or did you mean that you're happy to drop off a gallon of milk? Or the report that I'm working on that I just didn't, you know, I haven't, it's on my desk instead of in my computer, right? So, so that's what I say is really, really important, it's really important to know what not to say.

[00:10:56] The second thing I talk about is, it's also really important to get in touch with your own feelings about what's happening. Because oftentimes what we say and how we show up for someone we care about is really reflected with our comfort or discomfort of the situation. And you know, this means that when someone says, you know, Stay strong, that usually means, what that statement is, is I'm really uncomfortable with what's happening in your life.

[00:11:26] I don't know how to talk about it, I don't wanna talk about it. So I'm just gonna, just kind of say some slogan to you that hopefully will make you feel better. So, you know, on one point, it's really great that you're trying to acknowledge it because a lot of people try not to acknowledge it. But the second point is, you're acknowledging it in a way that, that doesn't, doesn't leave the person feeling seen.

[00:11:48] And the reality is, whether you're in the workforce or whether you're at home, we all want this journey witnessed that we're going on. And so in order to do that, and, and we have to kind of take a step back and I hate the slogan cause everyone throws it around, but you need to feel your feelings cause it's very true.

[00:12:04] And if that means you're pissed off that this, that your employee has cancer right now because it's a really inconvenient time because you have this big, huge project that's due in three weeks and they are key lead on this, you can be mad. Or you're really sad because your mother was just diagnosed with cancer last year and died and it feels, feels too close to home.

[00:12:22] Or you're really freaked out because you have no idea what to say, you've never dealt with anyone dealing with cancer before. Whatever those feelings are, you gotta get them out and get them out of the way because then you get to be a more sympathetic and empathetic person, and then you can get to work.

[00:12:38] And I think that's the thing that managers feel, they feel like they can't be empathetic and also ask their employees to be productive. And the reality is you actually can. And if you become empathetic, you're actually gonna get more production out of your employees. Um, and I think that, that we, we, that doesn't, that's not the way we were raised, uh, about business and so we, we, we don't see those two actually working really well together.

[00:13:03] Ed Watters: Well, I think business is evolving, you know, coming into the modern world with the new technologies and especially, uh, since Covid here in the recent past. Through everybody, through this, you have to do it. So they're finding new ways to evolve into business and make business more appropriate for others.

[00:13:31] You know, because it's, it's always been the standard that you go to work, do your eight hours, and go home. You know, that's the basic, and you know, so it doesn't really fit with the modern day life. So the evolution of business is finally catching up. I, I, I guess that's an interesting way to put that.

[00:14:00] Kim Hamer: Yeah, I think it's, I think you're, you're right.

[00:14:04] Ed Watters: Yeah. So you, you talk about receiver's guilt, I find this very interesting. Could you talk to us about what receiver's guilt is and why it, it's present, and why we should think about it?

[00:14:21] Kim Hamer: Sure. So if we were a live audience right now and we had a hundred people in the room and I said, How many of you are really good at giving to others? And 99 people would raise their hand. Maybe one person is like, eh, I could be better, right, exactly. We'd all raise our hands. And then I ask, How many of you are good at receiving? And maybe five hands would go up. So what happens with giving, receivers guilt is the guilt that someone feels when they've gotten a lot.

[00:14:52] And it often happens when someone is, is going through a hardship, right? So whether they're, if there is cancer or loss, or you know, they've had an accident where they need support. A lot of people will show up, or many people hopefully will show up for them and continue to help them and support them.

[00:15:09] And at some point they start to feel really guilty. And they start to feel guilty because they feel like one, there's a law of reciprocity that's at play here. And the law of reciprocity basically states, if I give to you, you have to give back to me something of equal or greater value, and it's a very subtle law.

[00:15:26] It's just one of those things where someone says, Hi, how are you? You have to respond, I'm fine, how are you? Right? We're just sort of taught that there's a response that has to happen. Or when someone says, Sure, I'll loan you a dollar, you feel the need to give them back the dollar. Or some more or to buy them lunch for loaning you the dollar.

[00:15:45] So it's just a very subtle law that we live by and it's a very important part of being in, in a community. But when you're, when you are the person on the receiving end of a lot of gifts, it makes you feel like you have to pay all these people back, right? So there's that part of it. The other part of it is there's just something about, I mean, I think it's very, I think it's maybe westernized, I, I wanna say American, but there's something about, very American, of being very independent.

[00:16:13] And so the idea that you would allow people to help you, right, help you in a difficult time is, can be off-putting to a lot of people. I'm, I'm strong, I can do this by myself, we are a country that pulls us up by our bootstraps, that type of thing. And so there's the guilt of I need help, and I'm, and, and I don't want to need help, and I'm weak for needing help.

[00:16:38] So all those things wrapped up together become receivers, guilt. And what ends up happening is a lot of people will turn off the support. So they will say, if, if you, if you are, um, if you know that you can be specific, right? So I forgot the other end of the, if you need anything, let me know, is the worst thing to say.

[00:16:59] And the best thing you can do is be specific about the kind of support you can give. So if you're specific to someone who has receivers guilt and you say, Hey look, I am willing to put the agenda together for you for the next three months cause I know you're super busy. So let me put the agenda together to you for these meetings.

[00:17:15] And they said, No, no, no, I'm good. Thank you. And then you offer again and they say, No, no, I'm good. Thank you. And you offer again, because you always wanna offer more than once. And they say, No, no, I've got it. Really, really, I'm good. Thank you. That's how receivers guilt shows up. It's not like they're wearing a banner across their shirt going, Hey, I don't feel worthy, or Hey, I'm, I'm really nervous about all this help

[00:17:35] I'm getting. It just shows up in, in consistent and constant, you know, refusal of support. And it can really stymie a team, um, and there's really, and the, and the, and the, the, the antidote to that really is to just basically state, look, I am paying it forward for the time that you covered for me for X, Y, and Z. So you're letting them know that they are actually on the other side of the law of reciprocity.

[00:18:02] So it's not that they, not that they have to give you back, that you are giving back to them something that they have done and supported you in the past. Um, and other than that, sometimes there's nothing you can do. You know, you can offer the support as often as you can and let them know you're there. And then if they keep turning it down, you know, check back in once a month and see how it goes. But it's, uh, sometimes a very difficult thing to work around.

[00:18:27] Ed Watters: Yeah. So, so you were in HR before your husband's death?

[00:18:33] Kim Hamer: Yes, I was in HR before my husband's death, um, and then I left it for a number of years and went back to it after my husband died.

[00:18:43] Ed Watters: Hr, why HR Kim? Yeah.

[00:18:48] Kim Hamer: Who knows? You know what I love about it? You know, there's, there's new updated terms for it. They call it People Management, Chief of People, you know, Chief Human Resource Officer. What I really love about the field is it is both strategic and tactical, process oriented, and it requires a high level of emotional intelligence.

[00:19:16] So when you, when I get to work with a manager who, um, has, has, has a lot of turnover on their team and can't figure out, like, can't figure out what's, has finally come to the terms with if there's a lot of turnover, there's a common denominator and that common denominator is you, the manager. Like they finally kind of get it and comes to, I don't know what I'm doing.

[00:19:37] And we get to strategize and sit down and put, put processes into place that really fit who this manager is. And it starts from the recruiting all the way through, you know, how are you having meetings? How are you doing your one-on-ones? Are you giving performance reviews or are you checking in with your employees?

[00:19:55] How are you talking about goals for the team? Like, we get to talk about that whole big [00:20:00] piece and then break it down and put processes into place to make it possible. And then to measure it, which is really exciting about HR right now, we can measure employee satisfaction and that's really powerful. Because what happens is a manager then gets to see, you know, they'll, they'll, they'll struggle with something,

[00:20:18] we'll pick one area and they'll focus on it and they'll struggle with it and they'll see their employee engagement take up. And they're like, oh my gosh, I cannot believe this one simple thing I'm doing is making a huge difference. And so that's why I'm in HR, it's, it's that sort of excitement, that strategic development, and helping managers, employees become better and more productive at their jobs. Because we spend a lot of time at work

[00:20:43] and, and we get a lot of our feelings of who we are from work. And so I, I really love helping employees and managers walk away from their jobs at the end of the day going, I feel really good about what I did and I know that my manager feels really good about what I did and I'm looking forward to going back to work tomorrow. So that's why HR.

[00:21:08] Ed Watters: Yeah. Yeah. It comes with some pleasures instead of all the headaches, hassles that we, outside of HR, actually see. We, we hear HR and we go, oh God, what did I do, you know?

[00:21:24] Kim Hamer: Exactly. In my own life it's people going, oh, HR, what, what great thing do they have to show us? Like that's my, that's my sort of mission, my HR mission.

[00:21:36] Ed Watters: Yeah, there's a balance there that you just gotta find it, bring it together, you know, it's bridge building. That's, that is the key. Uh, in chapter two of your book, uh, your friend might not even remember what you did for them. It's a big thing here. I, I really think before giving, you have to just don't expect anything. It's a big key. Why don't you talk to us about that a little bit?

[00:22:11] Kim Hamer: I love, and I've been doing a lot of podcasts, I'm probably, right now I'm probably over somewhere 50 and you are the first person who has brought that up and I love it cause you're right, it's a really big thing.

[00:22:23] Ed Watters: Yes.

[00:22:23] Kim Hamer: We humans make decisions on what we do because we wanna feel good about what we do. And in that chapter, right, I think I said something about, like, if you really wanna feel really good about yourself, go, go, like, go play with puppies, right? Oh, no. So it's really important that we come to the giving from a very clear giving place and not from a martyrdom place. And the martyrdom place is, I am going to help you and you're going to just like remember this for the rest of your life and we're gonna be the best of friends. And you know, I'm gonna be the manager, the best manager you've ever had because of all these great things that I've done.

[00:23:04] And when you give from that place, when you give from a place of, um, sort of, and, and it's not clear expectancy, but it's sort of a, I'm gonna do this because I wanna feel good about myself, then that often backfires. I remember a couple years after my husband died, and literally even to this day, I remember what someone did and I called them up and I thanked them.

[00:23:26] And it has been 13 years since my husband died. So, you know, in the middle of a crisis, people don't remember anything. But after the crisis is over, you might get a phone call. But to give, it's really important that you check in with yourself. And that's why this feeling piece is really important that I talked about.

[00:23:44] You gotta get the anger and the sadness and everything out so that you can start from a really good, solid heartfelt way. You always wanna approach the, the person with the idea of, I am so sorry this is happening to you and I wanna do one small thing that I hope will make your day better, right? That's really why you reach out to help someone. You care about them, you, you, your, your heartsick that this is happening to them in their lives.

[00:24:13] You wanna do something that's gonna just make one little bitty thing just a little bit better, right? And maybe that's running to the store for them and picking up orange juice cause they, you just overheard them say, I'm out of orange juice and I gotta remember to pick it up because I'm gonna forget. And the kids are gonna not have orange juice tomorrow morning,

[00:24:29] right? So it's just, it's just that one thing. But when you do it from that place, when you do it from a place of love and wanting to relieve someone else's anxiety or pain, that's really pure. And that's often the times, well, sometimes you might get that call, you know, three weeks later this person's gonna be in tears telling you how much it meant that you bought them orange juice,

[00:24:53] right? But it's, again, it's just so important that you give from a place of really just wanting to give, to give them relief in some way. And not wanting to, not wanting to get the kudos that you were so great that you helped them do this one thing.

[00:25:09] Ed Watters: That's right. Uh, I love it. You know, that's, that's so important in every aspect of our life. Giving is a pleasure it's not a burden or a tool or a bartering chip.

[00:25:24] Kim Hamer: You know, I'm gonna write that down. I love that. Giving is a pleasure and it's not a tool cause I think people use it as a tool all the time.

[00:25:30] Ed Watters: Yes, all the time. Uh, giving back, you know, having that gratitude of life itself, it's hard sometimes. Especially some places that we have been put in life, not by our own means, but we all suffer in many different ways. And having gratitude is very important. Where do you find gratitude in life and how do you pleasure yourself with that gratitude?

[00:26:08] Kim Hamer: So a couple years after my husband died that it was really, I think it was year four, um, I, I, what they call, dropped my basket. It's a southern term which means I just went into massive depression. Um, and it was very scary and very difficult. You know, here I was this only parent, I was a single mother, but I was also an only parent. And I like to make that distinction because there are a lot of single mothers who are only parents, and then there are a lot of single mothers who are divorced and have, you know, are, are co-raising kids with a single father. Um,

[00:26:40] Ed Watters: Yes.

[00:26:41] Kim Hamer: and I was terrified, I mean, I was absolutely terrified. And so what I did was I had to really change the way I live my life. And I actually started meditating and I started a gratitude journal. And um, so the meditating was, I know it's a little off topic, but I do transcendental meditation. I do it twice a day and it literally saved my life.

[00:27:03] Um, it just got me out of that space and allowed me, it puts a distance between, a space actually between myself and my, and my actions most of the time. And that allowed me to slow down and to really think about, well, whoa, wow, what's that thought that's coming? How are you? Why did you react that way? Can you go back and do it again?

[00:27:22] That type of thing. And then I keep a gratitude journal. What I do every morning is I write down 10 things I'm grateful for and I stay away from the, I'm grateful for my life, I get really specific. Sometimes, like my knees, I have some knee issues. Sometimes I'm like, Hey, you know what? I'm grateful I was able to get out of bed this morning and walk to the bathroom.

[00:27:43] You know, I'm grateful there was toilet paper, right? Exactly. You feel like, I'm grateful there was toilet paper when I ran out of it. You know, I'm grateful my car turned on this morning. So it's just sort of remembering those little things. I'm grateful that I have money in my account so that even though I'm hungry, I can go to the grocery store and go buy something. And inflation bugs me, but it doesn't hurt me,

[00:28:03] right? It's just kind of being grateful for these little, it's little things. I'm grateful for the fan that kept me cool last night, I'm grateful that I get to go hiking today. So, it's, it's focusing on the little, these little itty bitty things, not the big grand things. Cause I, I find like I roll my eyes when I'm going,

[00:28:22] I'm grateful for my life, I kind of roll my eyes when I do that. So I need that. And, um, you know, I am really grateful for the people who stepped into our lives. Um, when my husband was sick and after he died, I, I want everybody to have that feeling, that feeling of, we, we were nowhere near the bottom. It felt like the bottom, but we were nowhere near the bottom because we had all these hands, you know, cupped together underneath us, catching us.

[00:28:54] And I didn't understand that at the time. Um, there were times I was definitely ungrateful for the way that people were supporting us. Um, but it is the, the, even the further away I get from it, the more miraculous it, it seems to feel, you know. Um, you know, my children got to see what it's like to be part of a community.

[00:29:18] Um, and, and it wasn't just one community we were part of. You know, we had moved all over the country and we had people from all over the country and the places we had lived coming forth to support and help. And, um, it just, you know, it's, it's the type of thing that really blows you away. And I think that I'm really grateful,

[00:29:41] it sounds really weird, but I'm grateful my husband had cancer. And it doesn't sound right to say it, but I'm also, I guess I'm grateful for the lessons that I've learned from his death. Um, because I, it really gave purpose to my life and I want people to really [00:30:00] know and feel how important they are. Every single person who came forward and helped us, it's not the one thing that they did,

[00:30:07] it's the hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of things that they all did together. And that made a huge difference in my life, a huge difference in the, in my life and the lives of our friends and family. And so to feel that, to remember that, so I remind people that, that you matter, like you're single, the single, that buying that bottle of orange juice may not feel like a big deal to you but

[00:30:30] trust me, it is. And that's really what I want people to know is how much they matter and how much they can really help somebody deep going through a difficult time.

[00:30:41] Ed Watters: So tell us, Kim, it, it's been several years since your husband's passing, how have you done that and how have you spoken with your children? Do you communicate with them about your husband's passing and you know, they were young when this happened, how do you keep the memory alive and how, how does life go on after losing a spouse like that?

[00:31:20] Kim Hamer: That is a great question and um, I will say, The, the very first thing I realized I was doing was, my simple goal every day was to put one pinky toe in front of the other pinky toe, right? Just, in the beginning it was making very small movements.

[00:31:39] It was, you know, putting my feet on the floor and saying, Okay, what do you think needs to happen next? Well, gosh, I think I need to use the bathroom. Okay, now you're in the bathroom, what needs to happen next? Uh, maybe I should wash my hands and brush my teeth, great, okay. You know, so I think, I think I got here from putting one pinky toe in front of the other and then allowing myself to eventually look up,

[00:32:03] right? So sometimes I'd look up and it would be too painful to look up cause I would look ahead and see a life without my husband and my kids without a father and I'd have to look down again. But sometimes, what started happening is, where I looked down started changing. So I wasn't always looking at my feet,

[00:32:18] sometimes I'd look a foot ahead and sometimes I'd be able to look three feet ahead and sometimes I'd pick my head all the way up and be like, Nope, can't see, so I'm gonna go back to two feet ahead instead of back to my toes. So it was sort of, kind of varying how often I could look at the horizon. And eventually the horizon felt comfortable enough to look at that I could start to make plans

[00:32:41] for the future. You know, the book came to me, um, I couldn't sit down and write the book. I had to write it at 17, I wrote it at 17 minute increments every day because I wasn't confident in my ability to write and I wasn't confident in my ability, that anyone really wanted to hear this. But I had this really writing force to get it out, but I could only do it for 17 minutes before the negative voices, before the, the, sometimes the massive amount of crying that would come afterwards.

[00:33:14] So I just said, Okay, 17 minutes a day is what you do it at. And there were days I didn't do it, and then there were days I did do it. Um, something that I didn't, I would never use the word, I didn't use the word then, but I realize now is just grace, you know, it was giving myself the ability to say, You know what?

[00:33:36] Not today, not today. And then to look up and to go, Okay, today? Today, yeah, yeah. Or maybe not this hour. And to look up and go, Yes, for the next two hours, I'm good. And then be like, Okay, I'm done, not good. Um, so I think there's that piece. Uh, the children was very difficult. One of the things I'm very grateful for is that my husband did die of cancer.

[00:34:00] And so, um, my husband and I believe very much in telling our kids the truth and letting them tell us, letting them indicate what, how much they couldn't manage of the truth. And so he was dying and he was unconscious and I wanted to give the kids the opportunity to say goodbye to their father. Um, because they had just seen him five, six days ago and he wasn't feeling well, but you know, he was still their dad.

[00:34:27] And so, um, I did, you know, bring each of them into the room with him and tell them that their father was dying and that he was just, his body was giving up and his mind, you know, he just couldn't fight anymore and that, you know, would you like to say goodbye to him? And each child acted completely different,

[00:34:46] I didn't know how they were gonna behave. Um, and then I tried as much as I could, as scary as it was to let myself fall apart in front of them, um, the idea being, and this wasn't, this wasn't a conscious idea, sometimes I just couldn't hold my crap together, you know, it was just too hard.

[00:35:04] Ed Watters: Yeah.

[00:35:05] Kim Hamer: Um, but what I realized what I was doing at the time was I was modeling resilience. And it didn't feel that way, it just felt crappy to not be able to cook dinner, to be crying a lot to, you know, have them come home from school and have me blubbering. Um, to be short-tempered because, you know, I think people forget that one thing about grief is it really messes with your mind and you don't have a lot of patience.

[00:35:30] Um, and so I was short-tempered a lot, I yelled a lot. And then to kind of have them see me walk through it and to see the other side of this. You know, they now see me building this consultancy where I'm reaching out and helping managers. And, um, they have an incredible, you know, they have found their own support network.

[00:35:51] The thing I often say about all of us is we find people who have cracked, you know, we like people who have cracked hearts the same way that ours are cracked. And so, you know, they inevitably have found children who, or found friends who, you know, were with an only parent or they all have friends whose, who have lost, um, you know, child, children who have lost.

[00:36:12] Um, so they find people who have their own support network. And we talk openly about, this one funny story I will tell, my, and we were traveling, we were going on a college trip. So I had taken my oldest and I had my two other, all of us were on a college trip with my oldest. And I would start these stories telling them about their father and, you know, this and that.

[00:36:32] And, and I finally said, you know, do you all even like hearing stories about daddy? And my oldest was sitting in the front seat and I look at him and I see him glance back at my middle child, who's my daughter, and then there's sort of this, sort of moment of, moment of communication. And my oldest goes, Well, mom, we think it helps you more than it helps us.

[00:36:57] So, so at that point they didn't wanna hear stories about him. But you know, that, that too changes, they now love hearing stories about him. And I'm not the only story keeper, you know, his family is the story keeper, his friends are the story keeper. Our friends who know people who knew him when, when, you know, their

[00:37:16] their parent, their friend's parents are story keepers. So that's how we talk about him, you know, they will, you know, I will share a story or they'll ask, they'll say, you know, did dad, was daddy like that? And I'll share a story about him. So I think it, you know, it just kind of ebbs and flows like everything else.

[00:37:34] I also know that, you know, when they become parents, they're gonna wanna hear more stories about him than they do now. Or when they, you know, when they start, when my son started his first job, or when they graduate college so it's, it's, it's really kind of sitting and waiting. And, and then for, you know, giving them the opportunity to ask those questions.

[00:37:51] But it's hard. It's not, you know, it's not, sometimes the stories are really great and sometimes I have a hard time getting them out because I'm sobbing. Um, but it's, you know, it's beautiful. I feel so grateful that I have those stories to share and that he was a really good husband and father. And that there's other people around them that can confirm that and remind them of how much of him, you know, how much of them, him lives in them. Um, so it's, you know, it's, it's a sad journey, but it's also a really beautiful journey. And I just talked a lot about that, sorry.

[00:38:23] Ed Watters: No, that's, that's what a good podcast is about, you know, uh, identifying those inner feelings. Because you never know who's going through something that, you know, we, we,

[00:38:37] Kim Hamer: Yeah.

[00:38:38] Ed Watters: we have to overcome and those stories help us. So, you know, the, the big thing here is going through all of that, you've built a big consulting business out of this and I like your blog. The blog is very interesting, a lot of things come out. And some of the helpful things that you put on there, we don't think about. Like I, I've got one pulled up,

[00:39:09] if I get cancer, I hope I have Aetna Insurance. You know, really, that, that takes that HR mind to kind of dig in and say, Look, this matters. But it does really. How does that help you deal with all of it? Knowing that you might help somebody avoid some of the struggles that you will face if you get cancer?

[00:39:45] Kim Hamer: So I wrote that specifically, obviously for HR teams because we get insurance. We have medical insurance for our organization, our employees have the medical insurance. And then cancer happens and we just assume that, that the medical insurance will cover it and we [00:40:00] assume that they, that there's nothing else extra or that the medical insurance company will reach out to the employee and tell them all the extras that they have. And that just doesn't happen. So

[00:40:10] Ed Watters: Yeah.

[00:40:10] Kim Hamer: I have HR teams they need when, when an employee is diagnosed with cancer. It's a really great gift you can give to the employee if you call the insurance company or call your broker and say, I need to know everything that the insurance company will offer and all the extras the insurance company will offer to somebody with cancer.

[00:40:29] Because sometimes they offer a nurse practitioner that is their nurse practitioner and that the employee can call and ask all sorts of questions to. Sometimes they offer someone who will walk you through the whole process and keep you up to date on what's happening and how it's going to affect you and what you wanna talk to your employer about,

[00:40:46] right? So, Aetna, um, Aetna was, was the company, I did some research and they were the ones who had, they had a nurse navigator who will walk you through your whole process. You get to talk to them and ask them questions and understand the drugs that you're going on and the side effects of those drugs. Can you work when you're on those drugs,

[00:41:06] right? Because, just because you have cancer, and you mentioned this earlier, Ed, doesn't mean you don't work. Some people want to work, some people need to work, some people, some people can't work. But we often assume, oh, cancer, they're gonna be out for three months. Not necessarily true. So really, you know, that's, that's such a simple thing that an HR team or that the benefits team can do is to reach in and understand what benefits are applicable to that employee and then let that employee know.

[00:41:34] So they feel comforted and cared for by the organization. But yeah, I think, um, I love that you love that. And I'm gonna make sure I start writing more consistently on the, on the blogs. Um, yeah, because there are, there's so many little things that we don't think about. Um, you know, we had insurance and I will tell you the story.

[00:41:53] We had insurance and so my husband was diagnosed. The second con, second con, second time there was a blood clot, that was the immediate rush. It was, um, they had, they had to remove it and then they had to put something into his inferior vena cava, which is the, um, main vein in your body that brings the blood up from your legs

[00:42:13] or from your lower extremities. And they had to put something called a nest into it because they wanted to make sure that any blood clots would get caught by this nest because he had been sitting for so long and he was gonna be, because of the type of cancer he had, it was gonna be, um, it was, he was gonna be doing, sitting for a long time.

[00:42:31] So we're wheeling him into surgery and the doctor meets me at the operating room door and says, By the way we're out of network on your insurance, are you okay with this? So here I am, right? My husband has cancer, he needs to get this blood clot thing in there before he even starts chemo. We're met at the operating door and I'm told by this doctor that he is out of network.

[00:43:00] And my husband's having difficulty breathing because the nodes in his chest are shutting down his lungs. So I have two options, I can say, no, I'm not comfortable. We need to find another doctor, which means we need to wait several hours or days. I don't know, I don't know how long that's gonna take. Or I just say, okay, fine.

[00:43:18] And that's exactly what I did, I said, okay, fine. Just, and that bill hurt. And we were, we had insurance, we had insurance. There were plenty of bills that came through that were not covered by his insurance or were out of network. And even when we reached the deductible, there were things that we, you know, you reached two deductibles.

[00:43:38] There's your out of, there's your in-network deductible, then you're out of work network deductible. You know, even taking the time to explain this to the employee who's affected by cancer is a huge help to them. And so it's making these, so anyway, we got a huge bill in the mail. And just because my husband died doesn't mean that they tell me those bills are free.

[00:43:59] You know, my husband was dead and I still had, four months later my husband died and I still had to pay that bill. And so, you know, there's these little things that we all can do , that organizations can do that are really powerful and helpful. And even like I said, just explaining what out-of-pocket and in pocket network is to your employees.

[00:44:20] We get it as HR professionals because we do it all the time. But it's like speaking, it's like speaking a foreign language that you know like four or five phrases of, right? You know just enough to ask where bathroom is, but you don't know enough. We need to remember that as professionals, that that's some way that we can really support an employee. Um, but yeah, I, I totally forgot about that, but that's, yeah, that's another great way to support.

[00:44:47] Ed Watters: Yeah. Well, you know, you do quite a few great things and, and I, I just applaud you for, you know, basically doing it. Losing a spouse that is, that is just immense. I, I don't know how anyone handles that. But I hope I never have to deal with it. But thanks to people that have, and have the courage to come on and tell all. That's how we change the world, Kim. So our time is short here. I, I could go on and on with you, it's great. Do you have a call to action for our listeners today?

[00:45:33] Kim Hamer: Yes, I do. Um, if you need, if you wanna know five phrases never to say and what to say instead. As well as to know why not to say them, cause I think that's really important, I think it's not just meant about memorizing phrases.

[00:45:49] Ed Watters: Yeah.

[00:45:49] Kim Hamer: When you learn and know why they're not helpful, that allows you to say things, to come up with your own phrase that is really helpful to someone who's in crisis. So if you'd like that free download, you can go to\whatnottosay.

[00:46:07] And that's really, that's no spaces, no capitals, what not to say.\whatnottosay. And that is the number 100. Um, yeah. And, and, you know, every week, um, I send out newsletters, just those interesting little facts. Sometimes they're personal about my life and what's happening, and about my kids, and death and loss, and sometimes they're about work.

[00:46:32] Um, I, I look at it from the manager's point of view as well as from HR team's point of view. But if you're an employee who's dealing with cancer, who really needs support as well, um, I also offer, you know, some help, thoughtful tips on that as well. So that is the best way to reach out. You could also reach out to me on LinkedIn, um, I am on there quite often and I love it as a tool to kind of share my knowledge there as well.

[00:46:56] Ed Watters: All right, and how can people find your book and get that book?

[00:47:02] Kim Hamer: Sure. So thank you for asking. And again, that's\shop, so that's the best way to get the book. Uh, it's also on Amazon, of course, so you can also buy it through Amazon as well. Um, and then I'm on Instagram and you can stop by like on Instagram at And like I said, LinkedIn, those are my two primary social media places.

[00:47:25] Ed Watters: All right, Kim. All of those links will be below in the links section and we do thank you so much for sharing with us today, it's incredible speaking with you. Enjoy your afternoon and thank you for being part of the Dead America podcast.

[00:47:44] Kim Hamer: Ed, thank you so much for what you do. I, you know, I take time to listen to podcasts before I jump on them, just to get the feel. And I love yours, I love the, you know, all the different kind of people you bring on there. Um, so thank you so much for allowing me to be part of it, I really appreciate it.

[00:48:00] Ed Watters: Thank you. Enjoy your afternoon.

[00:48:05] Thank you for joining us today. If you found this podcast enlightening, entertaining, educational, in any way, please share, like, subscribe, and join us right back here next week for another great episode of Dead America Podcast. I'm Ed Watters your host, enjoy your afternoon wherever you may be.