WPP 014: Karen Millsap on turning pain into purpose

I realized that I wanted to use my pain for purpose. The first thing was, ‘I’m not going to be defeated by this. Caleb’s not going to lose both of his parents.’ But then I think as I started to work through and surrender to the journey and say, ‘Well, okay, but how can I use this?,’ because then it would actually honor my husband’s life and his death wouldn’t be in vain.
— Karen Millsap

I’m so excited to bring you my discussion with Karen Millsap this week. I mean, you’ve got to love someone with a TEDx talk called “Use your tragedy to change the world,” right?

Karen’s husband Richard was murdered when she was just 29 years old. Her son was 2. After seeing her dreams shattered, and spending the first year in a fog, she realized that she had the power of choice…the power to decide that she was not going to let her life be destroyed by her husband’s death. She also realized that how she handled her husband’s death would have a direct impact on her son’s life and character.

Karen and I talked about so many fascinating topics, including:

  • Getting herself out of the victim mindset and the “pity party”;

  • The four pillars of practical empathy;

  • The HEAL method;

  • Teaching your kids how to use confidence checkpoints

  • Transitioning back to work after loss

  • Using her experience to help others

  • How in the midst of losing everything she found herself; and

  • Her plans to help her son turn his pain into purpose as he gets older

I hope you enjoy my discussion with Karen Millsap.

Links & resources for this episode


Karen on Good Morning America Thriver Thursday with Robin Roberts

Karen’s TEDx talk: “Use your tragedy to change the world”

Karen’s video: “I am what I choose to become”

Karen’s free ebook “The Transition Back to Work,” and other awesome free downloads

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, by Carol Dweck

More links for listeners

Widowed Parent Podcast discussion group - sign up here (free) - starts March 3

Homeowner 101 survey - I’ve lined up a contractor to answer all our questions about home repair & maintenance on an upcoming episode. Tasks our late spouses used to do, that now fall to us. So…what do you want to know? What are your biggest challenges?

What is your biggest challenge as a widowed parent right now?

Call our voice mailbox at (669)257-3434 and leave a message. Or, answer this quick one-question survey. I’ll pick the most interesting questions and challenges, and hunt down experts to address them on upcoming episodes.