Karen Millsap

Karen Millsap, also known as, The Grief Consultant, began her career in human resources and talent acquisition where she lead countless training, new process, and change initiatives. At a young age, she suddenly became a widow when her husband tragically died which completely changed the trajectory of her life. After experiencing a domino effect of other losses, she became acutely aware of the overall lack of support in our society for grieving people. We are all connected through our struggles, from the death of loved ones, to life-altering illnesses, divorce, even job loss. This realization ignited Karen's desire to turn her pain into purpose and pay it forward to help others.

Karen's work has been featured in Forbes, SHRM Magazine, on Good Morning Washington, MSNBC, and many others! She's also a regular contributor to Arianna Huffington's THRIVE Global community. Karen is a TEDx keynote speaker who inspires audiences to embrace compassion and empathy to help alleviate other’s suffering by becoming advocates for their own adversaries.

As the CEO (Chief Empathy Officer) of Egency, Karen’s training firm helps organizations create a human-centric culture with compassion and empathy. She's also the founder of Well Now Global Retreats.

Karen received her BA in Communication from George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. She is also a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist through the Grief Recovery Institute in Los Angeles, California.

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Connect with Karen:

Resources Mentioned:


A few of the questions I asked Karen:

  • Tell us something interesting about growing as a military kid?
  • What was the big goal for a young Karen growing up?
  • How do you best describe to others the personal challenges and struggles that you experienced following Richard's death? What actually happens when we grieve?
  • What do you wish more people understood about grief and how to approach & manage it?
  • Having helped others through similar grief: whether from death or divorce or other:
    How do you guide someone through the grieving process?
  • Why do so many people struggle to be transparent about what's happening with their managers and co-workers?
  • How do you motivate employers and small business owners to create a more welcoming environment for their people?
  • What are some of the things that employees can do to help a grieving co-worker manage their flood of emotions?
  • Why is it important to show empathy and compassion to the people around us?

Key Points from Karen:

  • I'm grateful for everything! Gratitude helps me get centered and remain present.
  • I'm a global citizen. I find comfort everywhere.
  • Growing up as a military kid has helped me to adapt well to change, which is now the story of my life.
  • Grief is not something that you can explain. It's only something that you can experience.
  • I had people who wanted to show support, love and to be there for me, but I just couldn't put into words how I was feeling.
  • Grief creates a ripple effect in our lives, and it's really up to us how we're going to manage it and how that ripple effect impacts the rest of our lives.
  • There are many other complexities that can add to your grief, in addition to the general feeling of loss.
  • Grief doesn't only come as a result of death. It can come from divorce or job loss.
  • I wasn't just grieving the loss of my husband. I was grieving the loss of our plans for the future.
  • When my husband was murdered, it felt like I was drowning, like I couldn't catch my breath. It was one thing after another.
  • You can choose if you're going to grow through the pain as you grieve your loss or if you're just going to suffer.
  • The pain of loss can be so unbearable that giving up can seem like the easier way out.
  • I had two choices: I could give up, or I could get up.
  • I chose to push forward, with a lot of grace, self-care and self-love.
  • Getting through my grief meant making one step at a time in the right direction.
  • The people I can help and serve are the people who don't want to give up.
  • The people I serve are those who say, “I am not going to be a victim. I am not going to let anger win.”
  • The person who killed my husband could have killed more than one person that night, if I decided that I was going to give up.
  • How you deal with grief is about your mindset, and healthy self-care habits.
  • The psychological is intertwined with the biological, so taking care of your body supports your recovery while grieving.
  • I feel the healing from inspirational quotes and I want to help feed it to other people.
  • Talking about grief is so awkward, so employees shy away from being transparent in the workplace.
  • Forcing grievers to be robotic at work creates suppression, which ultimately manifests itself in unhealthy ways.
  • Co-workers at work are paralyzed by fear and say nothing.
  • Grievers are silent because they don't want to be a burden to others.
  • In the workplace, we've been trained to leave your personal stuff at the door.
  • It's not just about isolated grief incidents, but it really is about the cultures we're creating in general
  • If we make compassion and empathy part of our day-to-day interactions, with innate human behaviors, then when a grief situation comes up, we're ready.
  • In the right culture, you already have that level of connection with the people that you work with, and you already respect and care for each other, so when you see them going through something, you know what pain feels like, and you want to reach out and do something to alleviate their suffering.
  • We need to make sure that compassion and empathy are built into business practices, so you have a flourishing organization. Then it becomes easier to deal with those emotionally delicate situations.
  • We can all empathize because we all know what pain feels like
  • We're all connected through our pain and our struggle, and that's why it's our social responsibility to talk about it more so we can help each other through it.
  • “If you take care of your employees, your employees are going to take care of your business.” Richard Branson
  • You build trust through empathetic listening and cooperative conversation that benefits you in tragedy and in staff meetings.
  • You get the best out of your employees by creating a psychologically safe place where you allow innovation, collaboration and problem solving.
  • If you approach a coaching conversation with compassion, the individual feels safe with you.
  • Organizations want to be empathetic because they see the value of showing employees that you care.
  • We never stop grieving. We just know how to manage it in our lives.
  • If you raise your child with God, then you're never a single parent.

One Action To Blaze Your Trail:

Whatever your passion is or whatever you feel moved to do to leave an impact on the world, just take it one step at a time. If you know you're taking one step at a time, you know you're always making progress.

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