As a parent, if you had to choose between your child's best interest or what you personally wanted, you would likely choose what’s best for your child. However, what if that decision meant your child wouldn't be with you full-time?
Kristjana was faced with a gut-wrenching decision that hung over her head for weeks on end until a moment of clarity struck her like a lightning bolt. But, it came with a whole lot of heartache and guilt. Not to mention one that made a lot of eyebrows go up and whispers swirl around her.
There is no manual for motherhood. And, there’s definitely no manual for divorce with shared custody. On top of that, there’s no manual for being a military spouse either.
There are often many layers to the decisions we must make in our lives that others know little about. However, that doesn’t stop the advice from coming.
Listen and learn from Kristjana’s story. We talk about making difficult decisions via your own guidance system, outward validation, boundaries, tips for communicating with children about tough issues, giving/taking advice, and there’s even a bit about being an empath towards the end of the episode.
I really enjoyed this conversation. I hope you enjoy it, too! And, if you do like what you hear, please offer your support by sharing it with someone you know who would love it, leave a review, or rate it! I'd so appreciate it! 💛
If you or anyone you know is struggling with grief due to any of the 40+ losses, there are free resources available HERE.
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Victoria Volk 00:00
Thank you for tuning in to this episode of grieving voices. Today, my guest is Christiana hillberg. She is a content creator, avid connector and freelance mentor. She has 10 plus years of experience in the client experience industry and is driven to help all women that she comes in contact with, unlock their potential and succeed. As a mentor Christina's focus is to empower women to start a side hustle or leave their nine to five job completely to become their own boss hallelujah. She has worked with various clients and industries from entertainment to e commerce as well as experts in the areas of pediatric sleep and play therapy. Her work is included on brand strategies marketing campaigns, and has been a core team member on a few founding behavioral and physical physical health teams. kristiana resides in the Black Hills of South Dakota with her family and she's a military spouse and enjoys thrifting eating scones at the local bakery and prides herself in being an aerialist in the circus. How fun. She's also the podcaster of the podcast, your freelance friend, the red door. Welcome. Thank you for being here. We are neighbors. I'm in North Dakota, you're in South Dakota, so much fun.
Kristjana Hillberg 01:15
I love it.
Victoria Volk 01:17
We do have running water people we do water.
Kristjana Hillberg 01:20
Victoria Volk 01:22
we were just talking about this before I started to record. We I live in a really, really, really, really, really small town, like 60 people. And we do have dirt roads, and so many people from across the country and even the world that I've talked with, like why I can't believe you have dirt roads. And I was just sharing with Christiana too is you know, it's really something to be grateful for. In this moment of when I step out my door, just like you, we step out our doors, and we actually hear nature. I'm sitting outside this morning, and just like it might be small, it might be in the sticks, it might be difficult to have access to things, but I have access to nature anytime I want. Right?
Kristjana Hillberg 02:07
Victoria Volk 02:08
Yeah, so thank you for being here. And I'm very thrilled to be having the conversation with you today, because you were speaking about something that has not been talked about yet on the podcast. And something that I'm sure a lot of, well, as you've shared briefly before we started to record that a lot of people have an opinion about. So we are going to be talking about the fact that you Well, you know what, I'll let you share. So what brings you to grieving voices?
Kristjana Hillberg 02:35
Okay, yes, and so glad to be here and share the story. Because I think that, you know, when you're co parenting, you already have to navigate, like such a different plan and structure. And with my situation. It was like a whole new level of learning how to co parent. So I was previously married, we ended up getting a divorce, we had a two and a half year old little one. And we started 5050 co parenting. And a few years later, I met and fell in love with my now spouse, and he was in the military still is in the military. And he was stationed across the state, which I mean, I guess Lucky for us, it was still in the same state just five hours away. And for the first year of our marriage, I stayed apart from him still living in the same town as my ex and my daughter, still, you know, co parenting 5050 doing all the things. And my husband lived across the state and we would just commute back and forth. And we had two homes, two sets of utilities. And if you've ever done that, you totally know what that's like to just have to budget for that. So I think that there was just already that layer of, of stress and being a new, a newlywed, you know, couple and having to commute and live apart. And after the first year, we found out that I was pregnant. And obviously the question came up, you know, are you going to relocate and go live with your spouse? Or are you going to stay here? And so this was something that was just on my mind for months and just weighed on my mind. And I think there was just so many questions like, What do I do? What is the best choice? What is the best option for me for him for a new baby for my child who was four or five at the time, and this just ate at me and ate at me and anybody that I would tell because this is just like a common, a common thing that would come up in conversation. Right, because I was living apart from my spouse, I was now pregnant. And I was also co parenting. So it was something that was discussed a lot, or just naturally brought up like, Oh, where's your husband, and oh, you're pregnant, like, wow, you live apart, whoa, like, you know, so it just always came up. And so there was this added stress of everyone feeling the need to let me know, their opinions and thoughts about what I should do and what the best option was, or maybe how I would feel, depending on what option I chose. And so I remember going to her Christmas program, her kindergarten Christmas program, and I naturally did everything alone, because my spouse was out here, he couldn't make it back for a lot of the activities. And I was sitting in the back row alone. And I looked up, and this is making me emotional, I haven't really talked about this in a while. And her dad was there with his new wife. And both of their families were there, like huge families with brothers and sisters, and cousins and grandparents, like everyone was there. And it just hit me and I immediately knew that I couldn't take her. I couldn't take her with me. And not just because I didn't think that she belonged with me because I'm her mother. But because I truly believe that just because I am the mom doesn't necessarily mean that I'm like the better parent or the more suited parents. I mean, both of us love her unconditionally, and, and take care of her 100% but I think it was, it was a peaceful feeling. But it was also heart wrenching. And I think that so many, so many questions still fall out after that choice, like, what will this do in the long run? How will this affect her in the long run? Will she think that I abandon her? Will she think you know, that I chose Kurt over her? And if so, I mean, how will that affect, you know, like the choices she makes so there was a lot of just heartache and I think the heartache would have come no matter what choice I made, like whether I would have chose to stay in the same town and you know, have this new baby away from my partner or, or you know, whether I would have done what I did and came out here. So I think that it was just a very emotional thing that I really wasn't sure I had no idea how I would feel I had no idea how others would feel others as in her or what that was going to look like for co parenting because you know, I wouldn't have her 5050 anymore, it was going to look differently. But I made this choice and we've been here now for three years and I drive back every other weekend and she's with us you know on rotating holidays and in the summer and it's still it's still hard like there's nothing that has been easy or better. It's just a whole new set of challenges and life that's it
Victoria Volk 08:34
and that's a lot I can't like how they that moment where you realize that you couldn't take our width it's it's this moment of I mean really describe that to two people what that sacrifice feels like because I think that as mothers we do sacrifice a lot of ourselves but for our children I think it's there's a different connection a mother to child that other people who don't have that or even our counterpart the other parent can't understand right can you speak to that a little bit what that that knowing of what that sacrifice Wow, really what did that feel like?
Kristjana Hillberg 09:31
Wow, you know, like I had mentioned I mean, I think once that I like in that moment. Of course this had been weighing on me weighing on my mind my shoulders I remember being almost like physically ill for several months and not even just because I was pregnant, but because of this, this choice that needed to be made. And so I remember sitting there and having that feeling come over me and like I said it was Peace and knowing that her staying, she was still going to be very much loved and taken care of. But it was so scary. And also so I think, I felt guilty, I felt guilty for thinking that it was an option to leave. And I think that sense. I mean, it's been three years since since this choice was made. But I think since then, I've just read different things or experienced different things where I'm like, it almost it's, it's been a comfort a little bit. So like even reading untamed by Glenda Doyle, she talks about how oftentimes mothers become like martyrs, once they have kids, like it's like, oh, now I'm a mom. And now I like that is my job is to like Mother, you and you are like the center of my world. So I totally understand that. And I now have three children. And I, I do get that. But I also think that I have also tried to live my life where my children are a huge part of my world, but they're just, they're an extension of me. They're not, they don't define me. They don't define all that I am. And so I think that it's been as hard as it's been. And as, you know, the guilt that came with it, the questioning, I also think that this was the choice that that I needed to make. And I think that even just like reading that book, or hearing from other other people that Yeah, they may not have had the same experience. But I thought, you know, kind of the same, like even thinking about military spouses, sometimes like, the active duty spouse will get deployed for a year or two years, and that spouses is left home with the children. And so I think, kind of like, in our case, I'm lucky to our I still get to see her all the time very frequently. And luckily enough with FaceTime and zoom, I mean, we can FaceTime really whenever we feel like it or hop on the call. And it's not that I feel like I'm necessarily missing out, I think I've really had to try and put my feelings aside and just think about how can I best support her in this because it must be really hard to live with a parent, you know, who parents this way, and then also a parent who parents a completely different way, and manage having the the commute like five hours, if she's going to come she has to sit in a car for five hours. And then when she goes back another five hours, so it's been very, I've had to really focus on how can I, you know, support her through this validate her feelings and not make it about me? And I think that was, that's bad, you know, eye opening as well. I think that sometimes I think that I'm selfless. And then you're you know, you're put in these situations and, you know, it's like, Oh, poor me, or this is so hard for me. And I'm like, oh, but it has to be doubly hard, you know, for her. Like she already has divorced parents, it's probably even extra to now have to think about the distance that's between us. So I think that that was really humbling throughout this entire entire journey.
Victoria Volk 13:38
As I'm listening to you, I'm like, well, it's a lot of emotional intelligence, right there. Did you always have that? Or has that been part of your growth through this experience? Like what? Because the way you talk about it now it's, it is like this piece of knowing that you made the right decision. And you you continue to do make you continue to make the right decision, but also this really strong, empathetic, empathetic compassion, to really put yourself in her shoes. And I think really, that's what is oftentimes missed when it comes to children, because children is seen as resilient. And that drives me nuts. It really does. Because children don't choose to be resilient. They're put in the position to have to be resilient. Yes. Wow. Yeah. I'm curious how that evolved for you. Like, was that just something that's innate in you? Or do you feel like that's something that is, have you had previous experiences, I guess I'm going to get to have you had previous experiences in your childhood that have shaped how you came to this decision and how you've continued to navigate it.
Kristjana Hillberg 15:00
Yeah, that is a really great question. And and No, I don't think that it was just natural for me. Because I think that and I mean, maybe other women who are, who are mothers can relate as, as a mother, I naturally feel like, my children should be with me like, I'm the mom, I'm organized, I'm dependable, I have their schedules memorized, like, I'm, I'm versatile, I can multitask. Whereas not saying that my spouse isn't like a phenomenal dad, but it's just a totally different, like, he's way more like laid back. And like, Oh, I didn't realize that all of these things went into, you know, getting everybody ready in the morning. Like, it's just such a different aspect. So when I was thinking about this, I'm like, Oh, my gosh, you know, yes, her dad is is a wonderful dad, and he has a spouse, now a partner that can help him, but will they take care of her as good as me, but then I almost had it, then there was like, another voice in my head that was like, she will be taken care of like, it's okay. So I think that it was like this, almost, you know, two voices in my head, where it was, of course, those questions came up, or, you know, I would have done that differently. But I think that that's just natural, whether you are divorced, or whether or not whether or not you live in the same house with your partner, like, I think it's very natural to probably have those questions like, Oh, I could have, you know, done that a little bit better. I wouldn't have done that. Exactly. You know, the way you did, but I also think that growing up, I mean, my parents got divorced when I was 14, but it wasn't really a surprise to me, they didn't really have a great relationship. I remember wondering if they would get divorced, growing up, just like having that question. I believe I've been asked my mom that a few different times. And then, you know, my dad made a choice, you know, when I think I was, you know, a freshman or a sophomore, and they decided to split. And it was almost more of like, refreshing that it wasn't like a elephant in the room anymore. It was just like, oh, okay, that's finally happened. That's great. And I think that kind of like, what you touched on is that people say that all the time is, oh, they're your resilience, you know, you'll be fine. And I think that that is so normalized, like, you'll be fine. I mean, we even say it like, consistently like, Oh, it's fine. It's okay, like, I'm okay, I'll be fine. But I don't think that we validate our children's feelings enough. I mean, and I'm still working on that, and not telling them how they feel like, oh, you'll you'll be okay. Which obviously, I think, looking at big picture, like, yes, she will learn how to deal with it or cope with it. And ultimately, you know, quote, unquote, should be fine. But I still think that it's so important to validate that she's upset right now or sad right now or has questions about it and, you know, struggles with want not wanting to drive across the state, which I totally understand, or now that she has, you know, two siblings here and a sibling there. It's hard for her. And I think that just me showing up and saying, like, wow, yeah, that sounds really hard. Like, I'm here to listen, instead of being like, well, you'll be fine. It's fine. Like everybody does this, or everybody has siblings, like it's a part of life. I think that instead of brushing it off, it's just so important. And I think that I wish that I would have had that. And I think that, you know, all of us as adults now can look back on our childhood and be like, oh, wow, okay, like this is maybe why my parents acted the way they did, or this is how I wish I would have been talked to or looked at. And I think that that's all we can do now as parents and adults is to change that and try to do better for them so that they can eventually do better than us. And that's really just All I'm trying to do. And each day is, is still learning and learning how to navigate it. Especially as she gets older and has different questions and different frustrations and struggles. It's so different and each child is so different with how you parent them and how you show up for them and so it's it's truly never ending I remember reading this blog and I felt very drawn to it because the writer was also an aerialist, and so I was like, Oh, you know, I wonder what she has to say about being an acrobat mom. And she said kind of the same thing that I could relate to is actually as a performer, there's always an end that you're working towards. So there's like always a performance, right? So like an eight months, you are you are practicing, you're working really hard for this performance. And then you have the performance that went great. And like, that's it like you feel accomplished. But with motherhood, there's never like an end date or like a big performance that you're waiting for. And then like, Yay, you've reached it, like there's always and then like, even after you have your baby, like, okay, pregnancy was hard, or even pregnancy was easy, and then boom, baby comes. And then it's just like something else. Like, now your boobs are swelling, and you have to worry about like, all of these things, your body and now other kids. And so I'm just like, you know, this parenting journey is just never ending. It's always growing and always figuring out like, truly what's best for you and not, not allowing other ideas and thoughts of what you should be doing to, you know, hold space in your mind. And your thoughts.
Victoria Volk 21:10
Oh, so much to unpack there. And there's so many layers, there's so many layers to your situation, because like you said, there's so many relationships involved, and it's your children and their relationship to their sister and their individual relationships and the grief that they maybe have when they have to say goodbye and all of these things, and like you said, as she grows older, and as they grow older, and I'm in the trenches of the teen years right now. Oh, it doesn't get easier. I wish I could say it does, but it just doesn't it we I really feel like and maybe you can attest to this too. Like I've been growing up with my kids. Oh yeah. You know, and I you know, in the personal development world, people will say things like, you know, don't have children for your personal growth journey, but I think that's a natural I think that's what naturally happens. I don't think you can bypass that because children are mirrors.
Kristjana Hillberg 22:08
Oh my gosh, yeah,
Victoria Volk 22:10
Whatever issues you have in your life personally, like deep down in your soul, like they will emerge through your dad's none so I'm curious you mentioned some things that you I'm curious if there's certain resources and things that you've come across other than the book you mentioned by Glenn and Doyle but have there been things that have definitely helped you navigate all of these pieces of your story.
Kristjana Hillberg 22:38
Yeah, you know, the first little while when I was still like making my decision I would Google all the time and just try and find anybody who had done this or had experienced like the same things oh my gosh, I was I just kind of went down a rabbit hole of like trying to find blogs or different writings or experiences and I truly wasn't able to find a ton with like my exact experience. But I also think that that was really great reminder is to follow your intuition your gut and actually like turn inward instead of googling all the time, right? Which I think can just be like a natural thing anymore is that we'd like Google you know, what's this? And so it was just a really great really great reflection to be like okay, you've been searching outward for so long and allowing other people's opinions and ideas to you know, just kind of fill your mind let's just sit back and like think for a little bit just like and really marinate on what feels good to you what's going to be best for you know, you incur new baby for Lily for everybody that's involved. And I think that that was where more of the peace came because I think that when I was searching for outward validation and I truly was like, I was seeking for somebody to be like, oh Chris, it'll be so you know, this is how you'll feel it will go well and I was I truly was seeking for that. And I mean, it never came and I said, Okay, well how can I create the situation that I want I'm also a huge advocate for nothing is ever permanent so I mean, I was very upfront with my partner as well and I just said okay, this is what I feel like is the best going forward but nothing is ever permanent. So if this really has like a huge impact on her and we can see that it's like affecting her. I you know, I would like to leave it open that I could potentially move back or that we could revisit the situation and see what else what other options We have because I think sometimes we get so stuck in this, like tunnel vision of these are our options A or B. And that is it when really there's like 20 other doors surrounding us that we haven't even opened yet. And so I think that just being in communication with everybody and really having our child at the forefront of Okay, like what's best for her what's going to work out, let's really listen, let's listen to her teachers, if it's affecting her at school, if it's affecting her, you know, personal life, or whatever it is, then we can revisit this. But ultimately, when we look back, I mean, all of her teachers would almost be like, wow, like, she is very settled and very, like, happy. And I'm just adjusting really, really well. It has never been like an issue ever. And I think that that was also comforting to know that she really like she could thrive. And as comforting as it was, it was also a little bit of, I think that I had to take the weight off of, you know, your kids will only thrive like with you as their mother. They're when I'm like, really she knows I'm she knows I'm in our corner, she knows that I will always be there for her no matter what. But I don't need to be there with her 24 seven for her to be a thriving young woman. I mean, she, she has friends and a wonderful stepmother and family. And so I think that it was almost like it hurt a little bit because I was like, oh, like, she she doesn't need me in the sense of like they're with her 24 seven, if that makes sense.
Victoria Volk 26:48
No, it does.
Kristjana Hillberg 26:50
It kind of hurts a little bit, because you would like to think like, I'm the mom, they need me. She's gonna be so sad. Not saying that she doesn't miss me. But it's just, it was definitely different than what I had like envisioned or created in your mind, which I think we all know that is when we let our mind just kind of take over. It always goes to like the worst scenario like this is going to happen, it's going to be awful. And really reality was not that at all.
Victoria Volk 27:21
Well, and I think too, like, I think when this is where I think our childhoods greatly impact us in ways in our adulthood influence our parenting in ways that we really don't understand or comprehend or really even connect the dots and think about because you know, when we because as mothers, and I can speak for this for myself, but when my youngest went off to kindergarten, I had this midlife unraveling because I wrapped so much of myself in my identity into being a stay at home and work at home mom. So when that was gone when I realized that, that that attachment like oh, well, they don't need me as much, they're becoming more independent, which is really what I want to deep down because I had to grow up very independent, I had to be resourceful and, you know, depend on my own wits and really raised myself and a lot of ways and so I think that that has greatly influenced me, especially now after I've kind of worked through and done a lot of inner work. But when we look at our children, like they complete us, it can be very smothering to our children and stifle their growth. Because we're all we're, we're latching on to something that we feel is slipping away. But that is really a projection and a reflection of us and what's going on in us. So I think it takes a lot of introspection, and to really look at the situation for what it is and what is best for them with your feelings and your emotion and your ego set aside and that's really hard for people to do.
Kristjana Hillberg 29:04
Yeah, another part of Glenn's book talked about that, that part that you just brought up was showing your children that you are following your dreams and like living your passion and, and really doing like showing them that that you're still living your life because then it like allows them to feel like wow, like I can live my life whereas I think that I mean when you watch somebody, your mother or your father that's holding back then I think that that could potentially affect you later like oh, it's scary out there. Or, you know, my dad has always stayed in this place and has never really ventured out like Is it scary out there. Maybe I just won't do that. Um, and kind of the same thing. So I really like to make sure that my kids are seeing that I'm still doing all of these things that bring passion and light and love into my life and to share those things with them. So that eventually, when they decide to leave, or whatever, they decide that they will feel like, Oh, I watched my mom do it, like, I can do it too, or whatever it is, whether it's, I mean, she watched me go through a divorce. And then she watched me find love, and she watched me, you know, perform, and she's watched me travel. And she's also watched me grow a business. And so I think that all of those things will hopefully inspire her, that there's no limit to what she can or can't do. And so I i love that you brought that up is that sometimes when you feel like that's what defines you, it can be scary when you don't have that anymore. And so I think, I'm not gonna say Luckily, because it's not luck that, you know, we're in the situation that we're in. But I think that I was able to learn that from such an early age, like some such an early age for my kids being so young that now with my younger two, it's just so different, like, the dynamic is so different, where I don't, I don't ever think that will ever reach that point where like, they're graduating, and then I am like freaking out, because I have no idea how I'm going to like what I'm going to do, I'll probably be like, Oh my god, I'm so happy for you by us, you know, we'll be here doing this. And this, like, I think it's very just like a liberating feeling to feel like, you know, these humans that we're raising our, their own person, like, we're just there to guide them and support them and validate their feelings and talk to them about all the things and let them know that questions are okay. But then other than that, I'm like, they pretty much will figure it out, you know, for themselves, what feels the best to them. And I think as long as we keep that at the forefront, like, how does this work for you? How does it feel for you? Like, what can we do to support you, I think that that's totally setting them up for success rather than us dictating all the things all the time,
Victoria Volk 32:24
right, and being honest, right? Like being really, totally honest. Because you could have, I mean, as another transition happens, as your kids get older, and maybe things change, and the situation has to change, it's like being completely on. And I think that's where a lot of people miss, miss the mark. And that just being honest with your kids, I don't know what this is going to look like, I don't know how this is going to turn out. But I want you to know that anything that you concerns or anything that you can talk about it and you can, you know, it's just giving the child a voice, letting them know that they're being that they're heard, and that their concerns are heard and that they they won't be disregarded you might not make and letting them know ahead of time, like I might not make the choice that you want me to make. But I'll make the choice with your heart as in consideration. You'll take your thoughts into consideration. I think I love that. Yeah, when you involve them in the decision. Obviously, you can't let them make the decision for you. But yeah, I just feel like I don't know, I just felt like a new dimension
Kristjana Hillberg 33:29
No, it really truly was perfect because I heard this reference once or maybe not a reference. I don't know. It's like a little story about teaching your children how to trust their feelings. And it was saying, okay, pretend that you're in the backseat of your, you know, you're driving with your mom, you're in the backseat. And a really scary accident happens where like you run through a red light, you're spinning around, it's you know, you're very scary, the car stops and your mother looks back at you and says, everything's okay, like we're fine. And immediately you feel this disconnect because your body is telling you that that was a very scary situation and something bad could have potentially happened, where same scenario, the car stops, your mom looks back at you and says, Oh my gosh, that was so scary. How do you feel like can you feel your heart beating fast like, and kind of walks you through that, and then says, but now we're safe. Let's take a few breaths and just kind of like, walks you through the whole situation. It teaches you that you can trust what you felt that that experience was scary. But you are safe. And it's okay to take a deep breath, cry, whatever you need to do. And I think that teaching your kids from such a young age that like to trust how they're feeling, and then to also teach them that they don't always have to be happy. Like we don't always have to feel good and happy and excited. Like, we can Feel mad and sad and worried and those are all completely natural feelings and then teaching them also like okay this is what I do when I'm really sad or when I feel anxious you know what what makes you feel happier when you're you know feeling sad or when you're away and I think just like providing tools given you know, age appropriate or whatever tools that they can use that that they know now that they don't always have to show up and act like everything's happy and and good.
Victoria Volk 35:35
Be an example of how to how an adult regulates emotions. I had a flashback something when you were telling that story because I had a kind of a situation and my kids were a little bit younger and we were driving and I saw the rain clouds and we're just going to get on Interstate and I saw the rain clouds and I thought oh boy I hope it doesn't downpour at all sure enough, it's like a new in my gut like this isn't going to be good. And get like 10 miles down the road. It just starts downpouring like so bad. My wipers can't keep up I'm blinded by the rain. I can't Oh, yeah. And I see this 18 wheelers in front of me and and I just started pulling to the side. And I I just followed his lights. And I didn't even know I saw him starting to pull over but I know it was he over far enough. I didn't know. I just followed behind his lights. And I didn't know like am I far enough to the side? Am I almost in the ditch? Like, should I go in the ditch? And you know, because my fear was I'm going to get rear ended because someone's not going to see me. Oh my god was that terrifying? Like in my daughter like she like tears panicked, like, and I was panic. Oh my gosh, and my heart rates just raising, rising, just thinking about it. Because it was truly scary for all of us. You know, and I I'm one I can't hide it like it is what it is. But it's been Yeah, emotionally honest. Like, oh my gosh, that was really scary. Like, how were you feeling like, oh, like we're okay, though. We are okay, you know? Yeah, yeah. So yeah, I was like, exact situation, just a different scenario. But yeah, it was I was gonna say anger is valid to write like, anger is totally valid emotion. I think sometimes to like, anger is an unacceptable emotion and a lot of homes like you can't express anger. And so that gets so stuck in stifled in our bodies. And, and I've seen it in myself, to be honest, I had a lot of anger and resentment. And I say we say in grief recovery and grief recovery specialists, we say in grief recovery, that resentment is a poison that you take hoping someone else dies. And that's really what long held anger becomes, is just really it's poison in your body. But I think it's very important that as parents, we allow our children to be angry, and to express that, but as adults, we need to emulate what that looks like. Like Yeah, and I give myself timeouts, I tell my kids, you know, I need a timeout right now. Mm, space, because I'm also a umap certified coach. And with umap it's we learn how what our values are and how you're wired and things like that. And it's been really eye opening for me to just talking about values and thinking about how that when our values are violated or dishonored. That's how much grief that creates for us. And I think if we can understand what each other especially in a home, family unit, what each person values, it can create a lot more harmony within a family.
Kristjana Hillberg 38:40
That's great. I've never heard of that. That's great.
Victoria Volk 38:44
I just got to thinking about that as I was listening to your talk to let's to kind of circle back to the beginning because I think it's like I said I really wanted I'm excited to talk to you about this because I think there's a lot of like you said there was a lot of things said to you that were hurtful. And I want this to be an also an educational piece for people give people a different perspective of loss and grief in a different way. And so what are some of the hurtful and, and really harmful things that people said?
Kristjana Hillberg 39:22
Yeah, I like oh, gosh, I've tried to like nod. But I mean, I think that a lot of people just would revert back to like, Oh my gosh, like how could you like how could you leave her? And I think that that was a very resounding like a pretty common, a common phrase whether it was those exact words or you know a phrase that that meant that. I mean even my attorney when we were like revisiting the stipulation because we now needed to put in like, it was isn't going to be 5050. And we had to look at different dates and, and all of that she was also kind of like cold like, Oh, you know, you're kind of just like getting yourself in this situation, you know, and like a judge is not ever going to look at your situation and think like, Oh, she should be with her mom. Like, he's gonna be like, well, she, like that was her choice. And so then, of course, all of those feelings of a little bit of anger, like, Well, okay, yeah, that's a choice. And I'm marrying a man who's active duty, but also like, he's sacrificing his life to also serve the country. So I think that it's like, a little bit different than just being like, hey, like we're choosing to move to Vegas by like, it was totally not that but also like, made to seem that way. Which of course, hurt me because I was physically and emotionally sick. And so it's not like it was a an easy decision. It's not like it was taken lightly. And so when people would make their comments, it felt like all of my feelings and worry and ache was just not taken into account, if that makes sense.
Victoria Volk 41:17
Yeah. And you'll hear something that I think that here's a phrase that I tell myself when I'm encountered with a situation that I don't understand, or seems confusing to me, or this is what I say to myself. I don't know what I don't know. And I think if people ask themselves that, before speaking, I don't know what I don't know. Would they really say half the crap? They say? Yeah, right. Not, but you know what I mean, like, we don't know what we don't know. So there's, it's almost like, when you take out one letter of a word, it changes the entire word, exactly. It's the same thing with situations like you take out one little piece or you add in, like you, like just your story itself, there's so many layers to it, if you understand one part of it, you're not understanding the whole picture, you're not getting the whole picture. Right. And so I can, I can just feel, I can put myself in your shoes and just feel that need to like justify,
Kristjana Hillberg 42:23
yes, justify. And that's what I that's what it felt like I was doing all of the time, is just justifying anything and everything, like, why I was doing it, how it was going to be beneficial. And then it was just, it felt so heavy, it felt so heavy to carry, but like I had said earlier is that once you stop looking for that outside validation and stop looking for other people to somehow make it you feel better, because it goes back to what you just said, Nobody knows the situation like you. So any type of advice that they're going to give you is not really going to be in alignment, ultimately, with your situation, because they only see such a small, little tiny piece, that that really, you're the only person who is is going to know how it feels to you. So I think that once I really decided, Okay, I'm not going to talk to anybody anymore, including my mother, including like my partner's mother, including anybody that had any attachment to me or this situation. I just stopped, I stopped asking. And I just almost at that point, it became like, avoidance of the subject altogether. But it wasn't avoidance because I didn't necessarily want to talk about it, it was avoidance because I just decided I didn't want to hear what other people had to say about it. So instead, I would just keep it like very brief and very short. And whatever it was that I ended up saying, you know, I can't even remember because it was several years ago, but I just remembered choosing to just not let it bother me anymore. I was like, I'm the only one that's dealing with all of these emotions, feelings and thoughts already, like I don't want to allow other people's voices in my head. So I think that that was a huge, a huge benefit.
Victoria Volk 44:30
And I think that advice can be applied to grief overall, in general, just overall in general and actually to like with umap I've learned when with values, people give advice based on their values, what they value. So for example, if I value freedom, I might tell you or even let's say you value there's a better example let's say you value adventure, and the person that is asking you for advice doesn't In value adventure, the person giving me advice might say, Oh, yeah, like, just sell your all your life savings and, and take a trip around the world, you know, as the other person might be they might if they actually did that, like, you know what I mean? Do you value? Yeah, if you value freedom, you're gonna give advice based on that value of freedom, like, oh, leave your husband, then, you know?
Kristjana Hillberg 45:30
Yeah, oh my gosh, that's so true. And like you said, it can be like that, just that information can be used for like all areas of our life. Like when we're giving advice, or when we're speaking, to say, I don't know what I don't know, also, what are my values? And how am I showing up in this conversation? Maybe I should just validate what they're saying. And say, like, I'm here, I'm here to listen to you, whatever it is, because really, what's your most of us want anyways, it's just somebody to listen, that's it. Like, I hardly ever go into a conversation and want them to like, work out my problems. For me, I usually show up and just want to talk about it. And usually by me talking, I either feel heard, and a weight is lifted, or I like solve my own problem by speaking it out loud, right? It's like one of those one, one of those. And so I'm just like, you know, if we all just showed up more, and I'm not saying that I'm perfect at that. And by any means, I always feel like I should solve someone's problems. But usually people don't want that anyway. So just learning how to show up. And just, that's all you have to say, like I'm here. Whatever you need.
Victoria Volk 46:44
And I think that's a knee jerk reaction for so many people. And that was me, too. For a long time. Just I want to solve it. I want to fix it. Oh, yeah, you want to fix it for you. I want you happy, you know, that I want you to happy? Yeah, you should, you should be happy because your sadness and your anger and your grief and makes me uncomfortable. You know, so let's fix you. You're the problem!
Kristjana Hillberg 47:07
Oh, I even noticed too. Like, my mom is very emotional. She cries. Usually when we talk. And I remember for a while, I'd be like, Oh my gosh, stop crying. And I had listened to a podcast or talk talking about that is usually when we dismiss other people's emotions, because it makes us uncomfortable. And we like that is not okay. And so anymore, ever since because I didn't know what I didn't know. Right? And so now I show up. And if she feels like crying, I'm just like, I love you. I'm here for you. And I just allow myself to sit in the uncomfortableness and anymore like, it's not really uncomfortable. You know? Like it's not. It just is what it is. And I think that a lot of the time we and that can be with anything, right? With race, with marriage with having kids with sex with porn with anything we're like, that's super uncomfortable, don't want to talk about it. Can you not share those things with me? Like, I don't feel comfortable? like can you please stop talking about that when really like, it's not our job to like, you know, shield what they're talking about, like we're just there. And if we can't hold space for it, that's a different thing. Like Listen, I'm not in the headspace, but like, I can give you five minutes or like, let me hug you. Like I think that just communicating, being open, being honest, being willing to be uncomfortable. Those are all huge things that all of us I think could work on at all times. Like it never ends. It's like an always always evolving and growing and learning. Always.
Victoria Volk 48:43
absolutely. And you said what you all said there the through line to all of that is boundaries. You kind of didn't mention the word boundaries but I think when we don't even know what boundaries look like or don't even have our own we don't have them with other people and I'm reading a book right now about empaths and healing for empaths and it's been really like it's like oh my gosh, this book is like this is my life like this is this has been my life because I'm I'm like an energy sponge for people you know, I take it all in and I'm really starting to understand my childhood more so because I am so empathic and I think if we can understand that too, with our children, because you know, to be told you're a crybaby or like even your what made me think of it was your example of your mom, if she is a highly sensitive person and cries easily, and you're always told, quit crying, quit crying, like don't show your anger like don't show your emotions, your body, you will process those emotions with your body. And actually in an example of that in the book is actually talking about Fibromyalgia because Fibromyalgia has no, there's like never any pinpoint reason for fibromyalgia like there's never like this is what causes it like they there's so much. But what it really is, is this stuck energy, it really is just stuck energy, look at any symptoms, physical symptoms that you have. And if you've gone to doctor after doctor and there's just no known cause like there's no reason for it like nothing no, there wasn't any trauma or anything, look at your energy of your physical body and ask yourself am I really highly sensitive person? Do I really get physically drained? when I'm around a lot of people or talked about like holidays to like, it's like the holidays were made to have to like torture an empath? It's like, yes. Yes, that's true.
Kristjana Hillberg 50:47
Yeah, really fascinating.
Victoria Volk 50:53
This book is like written for me. And so really. Yeah, so I think but circling back, and how that what that has to do with your share, is just understanding that we are all built differently. And that if someone seems to be highly emotional, it could just be that that's how they're built. That's how God made them. That's, you know, you're an empathic, highly sensitive person and maybe give a little grace. Like you said, I'd love you, Mom, I'm here for you. You know?
Kristjana Hillberg 51:29
Yeah, I love that I love all of that reflection. Beautiful, and boundaries. 100%. I'm like, Girl, we could just talk for seven more hours. But I think that I mean, I, I keep like, branching off, like, here's the story. And then here's these little branches off. But to just circle back really quick, I think that once I put those boundaries in place, it changed everything. It changed my energy. It changed how I reacted, it changed my thought process. And it really was, it was just way easier to navigate. Because yes, of course, this hasn't been like, Oh, I made the choice. And now I'm super happy. Absolutely not. It has still been a range of emotions of frustration and anger and sadness and grief, right? Like you just moving through all of it. But it doesn't mean that it's bad. It just is what it is. And as long as I have boundaries around it all like, it's, it's like a protection, like it protects me and my energy. And if I could give any advice to somebody who's going through any type of grief, because I think it's so it's such a relatable topic, like we've all gone through it, we've all experienced in some capacity and all differently, which is the beautiful part about it is that we can all have such different experiences, but be connected through that that same emotion and feeling is really I mean have give yourself grace and boundaries and look inward, instead of looking outward for comfort, which I think sometimes is an easy, I mean, I've I definitely looked outward, through maybe drinking a bottle of wine to try and not think about it, or, you know, just other behaviors that weren't truly self care. They were more, you know, harmful. And I think it's hard sometimes when you're in the middle of it, because you do not want to feel sometimes you just want to not have to feel what you're going through. And so you try to mask it with anything that could look like anything. But I think that once you just start to show up more for yourself and not for others, but really look inward. I think that's what will be like the saving grace of it all and just be able to protect you.
Victoria Volk 54:11
Was there a certain book on boundaries or about boundaries that you found really helpful to you or any resource that you could share?
Kristjana Hillberg 54:18
You know, I was in therapy for a while, several years ago, and she actually recommended the book boundaries, which I had, I'm like, I'm looking at it. I did not read it. It's there. And I should, but I really think that a lot of it was self exploration for me because I grew up with no boundaries. And my mother doesn't have boundaries. I didn't even know what boundaries were like. I honestly thought it was like a service to be available to everyone at all times for anything. Like I really thought that it that's like what you did as a human and so Up until, I mean a few years ago, so all of this was culminating at the same time, like my divorce, being a single mother and then learning how to co parent and then also getting remarried and like figuring out life. It all centered around not having boundaries and like not even knowing where to start. And so I think that once I just started experimenting, like what that looked like, for me, like being like, oh, that doesn't feel good when like somebody shows up at my house, unannounced, oh, I can make a boundary around that, like, Hey, if you're gonna stop by Can you just like, give me a call, click like, Oh, that's a boundary, or, I don't really like it when we have guests that stay longer than three days. Okay, so like, that's a boundary that I have. And I know I'm giving like, weird crazy examples. But those were just things that I had to experiment, experiment with experience myself, before I even knew. And now like, I would say, I'm pretty solid in the boundary department, like I am pretty in tune with myself and like, what feels good to me that I feel extremely comfortable expressing that whereas if I were to look back at my early 20s, like, shit show, like, I felt like my brain was a tornado. And I had no idea why and oh, it's because I wasn't I wasn't valuing like my time and energy and space. And so once I found these new found, you know, boundaries and limitations, and like, certain things, it was a game changer, game changer.
Victoria Volk 56:37
Yeah, I actually read the book boundaries. And I highly recommend there are several books out there, but yeah, and you know, boundaries when we have them, it makes people without boundaries really uncomfortable. real easily guilted. Like, you just supposed to feel bad because your example of don't show up my door on my door unannounced. And that's, that's I don't like surprises, you know, so it's like, well, then then you feel like, well, you're not a welcoming person. Right? You know, yes, like, but I am just not in that way.
Kristjana Hillberg 57:14
Like I feel welcoming, come over, I want to, like I want you to come over, I just want to know that you're coming over and then I can, like, get in that space. But I heard once that once you set boundaries, the people who break them the most are going to be the most pissed off, right? Because they're the ones who are breaking your boundaries the most. And so I think that just like you said, it makes people uncomfortable. But it is, it will make you uncomfortable at first I think like you'll be like, Oh, this feels bad. Like I feel bad about this. But the more you do it, the more comfortable it becomes and then the easier it is to express like anymore like I don't, I don't even like second guess like Oh, am I gonna like make this person feel a certain way. I'm just like, Oh, this is how I feel. You know, like would love to see you just call me in advance or Oh, you know you want to come stay that's really great. You can stay for like two days. We live in like 1000 square foot house with three kids and a cat like there's no room for extra bodies like love you so much. But please don't come over. I don't know we'll meet you somewhere. So I think it's just once you get used to setting those boundaries, I think that it becomes you know, easier.
Victoria Volk 58:24
It's like a muscle you flex. Here's the one thing too I want to say about boundaries when it comes to children and so often is and I'm guilty of this. You know, when your children are young especially it's like oh, give grandpa grandma hug or, you know, give uncle whatever hug you know, we tell our kids to consent. Yeah, put them in your you know, go and get people you know,
Kristjana Hillberg 58:49
like hug this person that's super uncomfortable. You only see them twice a year do it anyways, it will make them happy. It will make you again, yes, yes, sir.
Victoria Volk 58:57
Can I you know, give me a hug. It's like,
Kristjana Hillberg 58:59
it will make me sad if you don't.
Victoria Volk 59:04
Yeah, it's like, like, you know, your personal space isn't even is isn't even addressed or respected. Or, you know, maybe I don't want to hug them. Or maybe I don't feel like that maybe that's not how I express myself. Again, it's like letting the child develop and grow into who they are. not who you want them to be or, or like you said to make other people feel comfortable. And those are the early messages we start receiving about boundaries.. What you want doesn't matter.
Kristjana Hillberg 59:34
Oh, yeah exactly. Oh, yeah. right from the get go. 100%. And I mean, like we've said a few times in this podcast already as I don't know what I don't know. And it never used to, like irritate me or bug me and I've seen it now that it was brought to my attention that like, Oh, this is something that's just like perpetuated in society like, oh, here's, you know, 90 year old grandma you never see her revisiting You know a nursing home that you've never been to I you should give her a hug it'll make her feel so sad if you don't like we're teaching them that their actions like what they do, it's important to only care about how you're going to make other people feel. And so just like you said, it's setting them up almost for like, a really bad situations for later on in life like for, you know, if they're dating somebody who wants to cross boundaries, then they remember this, this over arching theme that was taught that was taught to them all growing up that even if it makes you uncomfortable, you just do it because it makes that person happy. And so oh my gosh, like, now I look at my even like two year old and like if his grandpa's like, oh, you're not coming up to the cabin with us, it's gonna make me so sad. I'm like, oh, doesn't matter. He doesn't want to do it. It's okay, if you make Papa sad, like, how do you feel about it? Like it's very, like intentionally teaching them to honor how they feel instead of how they're going to make, you know, somebody else feel.
Victoria Volk 1:01:05
well, and again, it comes it circles back to the early lesson of how we look to others to validate us. And so we grow up that way, we're going to look to others to make us happy to make us feel better. And really, that's an inside job, huh? Yeah. So what throughout this whole experience, what is giving you the most joy?
Kristjana Hillberg 1:01:29
I think, I mean, being able to be with your partner is, is great, it was super hard for us emotionally to live apart. So us being together has been has been wonderful. And I mean, even through like deployments and stuff, it's still nice to know, like we have, we've built a home. But that's also like the the flexibility of it, as well as that, like, if he's going to be gone for two months, then I can now travel like across the state and to maybe be with her a little bit more. So I think just the, what is that there's just like having a support of a partner who truly does get it and who's truly there to like, support you help you through it all, he never has told me once like, you know, this is how it's affected me or anything like that. Like, it's always about, like, I know that this has been hard for you, you know, how can we make this better, like, it's, it's been extremely comforting to have a partner who's very supportive of it all. And really, I think that it's opened my eyes to like who I am, you know, parts of my personality that I had to work on or that were, like, shown to me through this whole thing is that, you know, you can look at life and situations differently, it doesn't need to be like, because it's a societal norm, like you have to fit into this box like, or this is how you will feel if you do this, like I think that it's taught me that I can do hard things. And that most of the time our brains just make up this like awful shit that will happen. And ultimately, that's not really what ends up happening. So I think that it's just, you know, the remembrance that and I know, we talked about this earlier, because I said we say all the time, like I'm fine, I'm okay, like I'm fine, I'll get through it. And so I'm not trying to make light of that because I am fine ultimately. But I also want to to reiterate that this isn't just like a, the journey where I feel like one way about it all the time, it's still very much so like a journey of feeling all of the things of feeling sad, and like allowing myself to feel sad about it or, and to not live in that sadness, but to just be like, I'm having a really sad day today. Like, I really wish that she was here with us, I really wish that I was there. And then maybe you know, if I experience happiness, you know, the next day, like, that's great, or if I experienced like longing or yearning for, you know, just to like, see her I mean, that's what's nice about FaceTime, too. So I think that just allowing myself to feel all of it. And to realize that like that's just a part of life as well. Like you're not ever just going to be like super happy all the time that this is just like making the best out of the situation and being willing to pivot if we need to. And yeah, having a support of supportive partner, I think has made things a lot. A lot easier.
Victoria Volk 1:04:42
Having the hope that it's not permanent.
Kristjana Hillberg 1:04:45
Victoria Volk 1:04:46
Just the whole thrive together. Yeah, I think it's amazing too. I just want to bring I just want to highlight the fact that there are two sets of parents raising this child Who are all co parenting, who are looking at the best interest of her. And it may not be perfect, but just the fact that you can speak so highly of the stepmom and you speak so highly of her father, and I'm sure vice versa. It just says a lot about everyone involved. And so I just want to celebrate you. And what you and your family and everyone involved has created this loving environment with this goal of just helping her thrive. And so I think that is going to leave such a lasting impact on her. And so give yourself a pat on the back for that.
Kristjana Hillberg 1:05:43
Yeah, yeah. And I think that as long as we continue to have that goal of just all of us, all of us there to support, validate, help her through whatever it is, and just be on the same page. I think ultimately, like you said, I mean, we're, we're setting her up for success. And that, in that sense, so yeah, it's definitely been a journey 100% filled with all of the emotions and feelings. But we're blessed we were we really are blessed to have such a great relationship and partnership, when it comes to raising her.
Victoria Volk 1:06:24
I think I just think it's amazing. I really do.
Kristjana Hillberg 1:06:28
Victoria Volk 1:06:29
Is there anything else that you would like to share?
Kristjana Hillberg 1:06:32
I don't think so. I'm like, gosh, I talked for over an hour. Sometimes I like jump off and I'm just like, no, this and this and this and this. But hopefully, hopefully somebody out there that's listening can feel comforted or understood or
Kristjana Hillberg 1:06:49
heard or I don't know,
Kristjana Hillberg 1:06:53
I think that that's one reason. I mean, I like sharing this story is that I know we're talking about not seeking outward, you know, a validation, but I think that I even just wanted to hear of somebody else that had had to go through something like this, and I couldn't find it like I just I searched and searched for. I mean, oh my gosh, everywhere it seemed, and I just couldn't find it. And so I feel like even just by sharing this story of even if it's just as simple as like the CO parenting aspect. I mean, I think it just it brings comfort that like, Okay, I'm not the only one going through this, my feelings are validated, okay, it's totally natural to have all of the feelings like I don't need to feel settled all the time. Like I can feel upset or worried or scared at any point of this journey, even 10 years in, or however like I just, I think by sharing our stories is where we truly can connect with people. And I always just hope that somebody on the other end, can feel heard and seen and even just like a little bit of peace in their heart. So yeah.
Victoria Volk 1:08:06
I actually think it's important to validate people's feelings, I think in the context of validating the decisions we make. That's where the, that's where we can hurt ourselves. Because if we are looking to others to validate our decisions, that's where we aren't trusting ourselves. Yeah, we're not if we can't fully trust ourselves. And that's kind of a scary place to be right. That's totally, you're never really confident in the choices you make. So I just wanted to make that distinction that, yes, validate. Look for validation of your feelings. But at the same time, the differences is if you're trying to validate your choices and decisions that you're making, right, like you said, trust your intuition and go with your gut. Like, that's what really matters, because people will always give their values based advice, right? Yeah. So thank you so much for sharing your story. It's like a tapestry, so many different colors and layers. And I just think it's a beautiful thing that you've created in despite the all the unknowns that you gotta navigate. So thank you again, and where can people reach you if they like to connect with you?
Kristjana Hillberg 1:09:25
Yeah, I feel like I'm most present either on the podcast, which is the red door, or on my Instagram, which is just my name. christianna underscore hillberg. And I would love to connect, love, love, love it. I always love having people on the podcast, you want to share their story, or if you want to just connect on Instagram, I'm all about it.
Victoria Volk 1:09:44
Perfect. And I will put the links to the show notes as well as any resources that were mentioned. And remember, when you unleash your heart, you unleash your life. Much love