Kickin’ It with Daree - 5 Years later - Where my grief journey is now

October 17, 2017

I was so honored to be a guest on the podcast, Kickin' it with Daree Allen last week. A show about lifestyle, culture, life coaching, personal development, faith and fun. Get practical resources and real advice that will inspire you to improve relationships, develop yourself, and handle everyday situations and stressors better than ever.

I was able to share my story, give helping tips and offer hope to those struggling with any kind of loss.

In This Episode…

  • My story (2:21)
  • Recognizing depression and mental illness (15:35)
  • Asking the question, "Are you OK?" (20:51)
  • The problems with the Netflix series, 13 Reasons Why, about teen suicide (23:04)
  • The stigma of crying in front of people (28:40)
  • The time it takes to grieve and the "get over it" sentiment (31:44)
  • The stages of grief myth (33:24)
  • What Kristi wishes she had known (35:19)

International Overdose Awareness Day

September 12, 2017


This episode of |THE GREIF GIRL| was recorded on International Overdose Awareness Day 2017 while organizations around the world came together to spread the message that the tragedy of overdose death is preventable. 

On the show, I had the honor of intervoewing Dr. Lawrence Tucker, the Medical Director of Laguna Treatment Hospital. He is a psychotherapist, diplomate of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, and diplomate of the American Board of Addiction Medicine.

And CEO Gil Carmona, MSW, LCSW, has over 25 years of experience in behavioral healthcare and is well versed in discussing addiction and treatment as well.

Listen in as we dive into the devastating reality of addiction and the physicality of addiction, the Opioid epidemic, Opioids, fentanyl and its analogs that are prevalent in Orange County, plus ways to get help and the organizations who strive to make a change. 

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction and treatment, visit



13 Reasons Why NOT to Complete Suicide

June 5, 2017

My Guests


For this next episode, we are going to discuss the trending Netflix show, '13 Reasons Why'. I am not here to critque the show, but to continue the conversation the show has started. I am joined with Blake Barber, House Supervisior of the CSP (Community Services Program) Laguna Beach Youth Shelter and Juliet Ekinaka, a former youth counselor at the shelter to discuss signs of depression, suicde, risk factors in teens, triggering events and how to prepare parents, educators and friends to be a good lister for when they ask the powerful question, R U OK?

A recap of 13 Reasons Why: A box of cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker, a 17-year- old student at liberty high school before her suicide details 13 reasons why she completed suicide. It is somewhat like a murder mystery, captivating the viewers attention through the 13th and final episode.

At its core, it exposes what today's teens experience; drug and alcohol use, gender confusion, self- harm, bullying, rape, depression and suicide. It was not easy for me to watch and left me disturbed for several days after watching the final episode. But I do feel 13 reasons why is very important and I am grateful to Netflix for shedding light on a very stigmatized subject.


As mentioned in the podcast, we talk about #13ReasonsWhyNot 

I say these 13 Reasons Why Not to you because I have been on the other side of suicide. I was the one left behind, the one still living with this choice my husband decided.


1. It's a permanent solution to a temporary problem


2. You have depression, which is an illness and treatable


3. Depression is a liar. You wouldn't give someone who lied to you the time of day, so why give a liar your life.


4. It's not your fault. What ever you are going through, it's not your fault.


5. Things can change. What you are feeling isn't permanent. The first step to any change is making the decision to ask for help.


6. You matter. To your family, to the people whose life you have touched.


7. You are loved. It may not feel like so, but when you have depression, it's hard to let any outside affection in, but it's there, a lot of it.


8. There is help. Suicide has affected so many lives, and because so, there are many amazing resources for all ages to get the care and hope they need to heal.


9. You are not alone. The way you feel is your own, but so many also feel the same pain. Knowing you're not alone can help ease the decision to get help.


10. You will feel whole and healthy again. I know this because I have seen it in action. When you choose the path to heal, a new world of possibilities open up for you.


11. Relief is around the corner. No one likes to feel alone. No one likes to feel nothing at all. With help, there is hope for such relief of numbness.


12. Time is on your side. What's great about the choice to heal, is that you can take your time. Heal on your own terms. You are in the ultimate control and that is motivating and powerful.


13.You are incredible. You may have laughed at this, but you are. Unique, real, alive and have the strength to take control and seek the help and hope you deserve.


If you or your teen needs more information, resources or immediate help, please know it’s available! The following toll-free hotlines are available to help 24/7:

Teenline (This is a crisis hotline for teens to talk to other teens): 800-TLC-TEEN

AFSP American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: 

Trevor Lifeline (Crisis line for LGBTQ youth): 866-488-7386

Bullying Hotline: 800-273-8255

National Eating Disorder Association: 800-931-2237

National Alcohol and Drug Abuse Hotline: 877-437-8422


Exploring Grief with Kristi

May 12, 2017


On our show, we explore all kinds of grief. Where there is love, there is and will be grief. And when you loose something or someone you love, grief comes in and takes over. 

It's been almost 5 years since I lost my husband, Bill, to suicide. And even after, what so many would think is a long time, grief is still there. Popping up uninvited, at random times, sometimes, completley unexpected. 

I wanted to talk about grief and loss, about what I wish I'd known then and even now as I continue through my tunnel of grief. I want to share with you that even though the days pass by, and the years add up, that my grief is still very much alive. 


Beyond The Blues - Drugs, Depression to Attempted Suicide

April 16, 2017

Grief comes in all forms and is triggered by any event of loss; not just death, as we grieve all kinds of losses from relationships, health, career, trust, identity, and addiction.

These podcasts are just one part of my mission. A that mission to help abolish the stigma of mental illness, depression, suicide, and addiction. I was put back behind the microphone to pull back the curtain and help start conversations about topics that no one wants to have.

For the month of March, we focused on teen depression and suicide. Every day, 5,420 teens grades 7 through 12 attempt suicide. Today’s teens have a lot to deal with – from peer pressure to substance abuse to technology addiction, online bullying and gender confusion. 

My guest speaker, Evan, shared his heart wrenching story of his downward spiral of abuse, depression, addiction, to his multiple suicide attempts to where he is now. 

Evan's story begins as young as seven years old, where abuse and alcoholism was some of his youngest memories. Struggling for the love and acceptance from his father, he began his decent into the harsh world of alcohol, prescription drugs to attempted suicide. 

Listen to Evan's story. Feel his pain but know there is hope even in the darkest of times. Evan is here with us, inspiring others at South Coast Behavioral Health to push through even when hope only seems like a distant dream.

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Trauma Intervention Program: Citizens Helping Citizens in Crisis

August 23, 2016

In this episode, host Kristi Hugstad interviews two integral staff members of TIP (Trauma Intervention Program) Orange County: Community Relations Manager Erin Gardner and Crisis Team Manager Mindy Daffron.


2:00 – Erin explains the mission of TIP, which is to provide citizens help in times of trauma. TIP’s volunteers are citizens who provide "emotional first aid" while the first responders provide life-saving first-aid.

3:20 – How TIP receives a call in the first place: first responders assess the needs of the survivors and call their dispatch, who in turn call the TIP dispatch.

4:00 – Mindy discusses her role as a Crisis Team Manager.

5:08 – Erin and Mindy explain the level of commitment a volunteer makes to TIP. Volunteers work three shifts per month (12 hours per shift). A volunteer chooses his dates based on his availability, and may choose between a day shift or a night shift. Volunteers may not get called on every shift but the readiness time adds up. The ladies explain the differences in day and night shifts, and how TIP is able to offer 100% coverage (they have never missed a call). "No call is too small," Erin says. Suffering and grief take many forms, and TIP would rather be present than not.

7:42 – TIP covers all of Orange County. They are divided into two areas (north and south), and they pride themselves on being there within 20 minutes. The organization is run in an almost military-style even though they are managed almost entirely by volunteers.

10:05 – Kristi asks, how does TIP find volunteers? What kind of person is attracted to this kind of work?

11:25 – TIP OC has 100 volunteers and was established in 1995, and TIP nationally was founded in San Diego in 1985. There are 16 TIP affiliates.

12:40 – The ladies go into detail about TIP training — including number of training hours, teaching volunteers to reframe the way they provide support to someone, etc. (Asking “how are you” is not something you want to ask to someone who’s stricken with grief or shock. It can indirectly offend someone. Instead, ask “can you tell me what happened.”)

19:08 – TIP also offers a training program for teen volunteers.

23:12 – The ladies discuss the origin of TIP thanks to founder Wayne Fortin

25:24 – Kristi asks what care is offered to volunteers and learns that there is indeed a safety net. Volunteers must talk to their dispatcher after a call, and then a call is scheduled with a debriefer a few days later. Volunteers may also volunteer to be dispatchers and debriefers.

29:00 – Volunteers are always on call with another volunteer. There might be more volunteers depending on the size of the call, but at the very least there is always one pair of volunteers per call so that they may offer more help to more people. They are even trained on mass casualties.

31:28 – The protocol for follow-up calls is one call because the survivors need to rely on their own support system and community.

32:00 – Erin and Mindy give examples of calls they’ve experienced, and explain the "art of hanging around."

37:37 – Kristi asks how a call begins when a volunteers shows up at the scene.

40:15 – The amount of suicide that TIP volunteers encounter is staggering.

40:55 – The ladies explain what a hospital situation is like for a TIP volunteer. They often arrive before family members have even arrived.

42:00 – More details are provided on the next training for both adult and teen volunteers.

46:46 – Sound engineer Paul Robert asks, What is the most important tip for an ordinary citizen who happens to be at the scene of a traumatic event? The ladies respond that "just being there is 90% of what we do." There is no magic – there’s nothing to say to fix it, so just being there is enough.

49:25 – What has grief taught Erin and Mindy? Erin says grief has taught her patience and understanding. Mindy says that she has learned that you have to experience pain in order to heal. People try to stop that pain with different things but you can’t heal unless you go through that.

To learn more about TIP or to make a donation, visit or call 714-314-0744.


Grief from the Eyes of a Reporter - A Conversation with Greg Hardesty

July 26, 2016

Host Kristi Hugstad talks to reporter Greg Hardesty and learns just how much finesse and emotional intelligence are required to get to the heart of the most tragic stories.


1:38 – Meet Greg Hardesty, who's covered some of Orange County's most heartbreaking stories in his three decades of journalism (including 17 years as a reporter at the Orange County Register and six years of copyediting and writing in Japan). Greg is now a writer and editor at Cornerstone Communication's Behind the Badge OC — an online news site that covers law enforcement.

6:16 – Greg discusses his hobby of "ultra marathoning," which is running any distance that exceeds a typical 26.2 mile marathon. He was also an adjunct faculty member of California State University Fullerton and California State University Long Beach, where he taught feature writing.

10:13 – Kristi recounts the first time she met Greg when he covered the story about the suicide of her husband Bill. They discuss his ability to start conversations with people who have suffered horrific losses: by being a human first, and a reporter second. He explains why he wrote Kristi's husband's story.

13:37 – Greg talks about the impact of losing two friends in his early twenties, how it influenced his writing career (he originally focused on business stories with an emphasis on the surfing industry), and how he experienced grief.

16:50 – Kristi and Greg examine how they deal with grief. Greg explains the intention behind his writing, and how he writes to honor the lives of those who have died and to comfort their families — never to sensationalize their stories to entertain the public.

20:25 – Greg discusses the most difficult and memorable stories he's written — including one about a dying teenager who planned her own funeral, and another about the murder of Samantha Runion.

31:30 – Sound Engineer Paul Roberts asks Greg how he approaches victims to obtain the information needed to write their stories.

33:30 – Greg talks about TIP (Trauma Intervention Program), which he joined last year as a volunteer. TIP is a non-profit used by police, fire, and hospitals to provide "emotional first aid" in the hours right after a tragedy. There are approximately100 volunteers in Orange County who sign up for three 12-hour shifts per month (approximately 500 hours annually).

36:23 – Greg describes one of the most poignant calls he has ever received, which was a "NODA" call ("No One Dies Alone") for a 7-year-old who lay dying alone. TIP staffed volunteers 24/7 to be by her bedside for six days. "We sent her off with love — we pampered her and told her how much we loved her," Greg says.

37:45 – Greg explains what TIP training entails. (The next training is in September. Click here for more details.)

39:32 – Greg shares the story of the time he was flown to New York twice to appear on the talk show circuit, but for very different reasons: the first was for his story about Jaycee Dugard, and the second was about a piece he wrote regarding his then-teenaged daughter's excessive texting (14,528 texts in one month!).

42:00 – Greg shares what grief has taught him: to slow down and live in the moment. He ties his response to running a marathon: "You cannot finish a fifty mile race if you're at mile 22 thinking about, 'Oh, I have 28 more to go!'"

43:40 – Greg and Kristi share their thoughts on the concept of "closure."

Questions for Greg Hardesty? Contact him at ghardesty[at] and read his articles at


TEEN LINE: Teens Supporting Teens

June 23, 2016

On this episode, host Kristi Hugstad talks to two members of TEEN LINE: Program Director Cheryl Eskin and Intern Ric Tennenbaum. Established in 1980 and based out of Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles, TEEN LINE is a nonprofit, community-based organization that helps troubled teenagers address their problems. Their mission is to provide personal teen-to-teen education and support before problems become a crisis using a national hotline, current technologies and community outreach. Use the show notes below to guide you through this moving, educational episode.


1:40 – Cheryl explains the mission of the 35 year old TEEN LINE, who they are, and what they do.

3:20 – Teens go through 65-hour training program before they’re allowed in the hotline room, and are supervised by adult mental health professional who are there as a resource. The trainees spend an additional 100+ hours in the hotline room before they’re even permitted to pick up a phone call.
4:30 – TEEN LINE also does community outreach to educate communities about their mission and services.

5:00 – Cheryl explains how a teen can get involved with TEEN LINE as a volunteer. 

6:00 – Cheryl explains how teens in need can contact TEEN LINE. They may call 800-TLC-TEEN between 6 and 10 p.m. PST; thereafter, the line is maintained by Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services. They are may also text TEEN to 839863, or go to the web site to contact TEEN LINE via the message board or email. (The message board has 30,000 users.)

7:40 – The top 5 calls that TEEN LINE receives changes over the years, but the top call has always been relationships. Next on the current list are anxiety and stress, depression, suicide, and self-injury. Bullying, LGBTQ, and child abuse fluctuate in the top 10.

8:35 – Formerly a volunteer for three years, and currently a college student, Ric talks about his time as a volunteer, and what training entails.

11:24 – Ric’s internship at TEEN LINE involves going through programming and materials to make sure that it contains the latest trends and concepts. He also discusses how he continues utilizing his TEEN LINE skills at college – including teaching 50 peers how to assess for suicide safety.

15:15 – Ric discuss the type of calls that he found most challenging as a volunteer.

16:40 - Teens being able to turn to teens (especially anonymously) makes them comfortable, which is what makes TEEN LINE so powerful in helping teens.

19:45 – Cheryl provides information about their parent education, which teaches parents how not to be afraid to ask difficult questions.

22:00 – Cheryl and Ric demonstrate a roleplay in which Cheryl is a teen in crisis and Ric is the TEEN volunteer.

33:12 – Kristi, Cheryl, and Ric discuss the roleplay, and how Ric appropriately assessed the call and made the “caller” feel less alone. The volunteers are trained not to give advice; instead, they give options.

35:30 – Cheryl explains why more teens are texting TEEN LINE than calling, and how texting and calling differ from one another.

40:50 – Ric expands on why and how TEEN LINE leaves teens with a wealth of resources instead of allowing them to be dependent solely on Teen Line.

42:40 – Kristi sets up a scenario in which a parent needs advice. . . .

45:45 – Ric talks about why he got involved with TEEN LINE.

47:52 – Cheryl and Ric talk about what grief has taught each of them.

If you know any teens, spread the word about TEEN LINE! Visit TEEN LINE at to find out how to contact their TEEN volunteers, or get information on how to support and understand the teen in your life.

Stop B4U Start

May 1, 2016

In "Stop B4U Start," we meet the founder and members of a non-profit devoted to educating and empowering young individuals to stop using drugs and alcohol before they even start. A national study done by NCADD revealed that more teens are dying from drug overdoses than people are dying from motor vehicle accidents per year. There are 2.5 million alcohol-related deaths worldwide annually—320,000 of those being young people (ages 15-29). With the current system in place, trying to treat those with drug and alcohol dependence just isn’t working, so Stop B4U Start is focused on changing that and giving youth the very best chance to a great life by reaching them before there’s a problem. Use the show notes below to guide you through this very special episode.


2:18 - We meet the first of our three guests, founder Danny Murphy, whose own addiction issues go back to his childhood. At just five years old, Danny experienced his first overdose when his mother warned him not to go into the medicine cabinet. "If something tastes good, more is better,” he realized at that young age. Shortly after, he experienced bullying, and eventually sought approval by learning to play and excel in sports. His parents divorced, and he started hanging out with the “cool kids” and drinking. He also experimented with pot, which was his gateway drug, and once he did cocaine, his life fell apart within six months. . . .

14:41 - Our second guest (and a Stop B4U Start Board Member) Kim Barro got turned on to marijuana by her babysitter when she was just 14 and had recently lost her father. Not knowing how to grieve at such a young age, she found comfort in using marijuana because it temporarily suspended her grief. Like it did for Danny, marijuana became Kim's gateway drug, and she began drinking and then doing cocaine. For 34 years, Kim has had periods of sobriety as well as relapses. Her addictions have also included pills and shoplifting: “Doing something to distract me from me was a wonderful thing," she explained.

21:23 - Stop B4U Start advisor Kevin Fields describes his generalized anxiety disorder.

26:08 - Kristi asks her guests for their opinions about various drug myths and facts. The first is whether there is an addiction gene.

29:38 - Is marijuana truly a gateway drug? The group agrees that they’re seeing a trend in prescription pills being the new gateway drug, and pain pills are leading to heroin use.

35:53 - Is addiction for life?

37:11 - Do drugs really fry your brain? Are addicts “damaged goods?”

42:22 - Do you have to hit rock bottom before you get help? The guests go into detail about what made each of them ask for help, and it’s evident that everyone’s “rock bottom” is unique.

49:22 - Danny discusses what inspired him to create Stop B4U Start.

For more information on Stop B4U Start, visit their web site and learn about ways in which you can get involved as well as view educational films. Follow them on Facebook and Twitter to learn more about upcoming events in the Orange County area.


Escape from Heroin

April 21, 2016

In this mesmerizing episode of The Grief Girl, you'll hear a former addict's detailed story of his 20+ year battle with drugs and alcohol—including how his addiction began at the tender age of 12, his life of crime on the streets, detoxing in prison, and how he finally overcame his addiction. This story will give hope to addicts and their families, so please share it with anyone you know who needs a message of hope! 


1:30 - Host Kristi Hugstad introduces Johnny Pearson, who is now the Drug Intake Specialist at Reflections Recovery Center in Orange County, CA. Johnny goes into vivid detail about his normal upbringing, and what led him at age 12 to try alcohol and quickly move onto drugs.

4:20 - Johnny's problem escalates, and his mother notices that her cigarettes and beer are missing. Embarrassed after she confronts him, he retaliates and runs away on the weekends, and his drinking increases. He begins sleeping in broken cars and his friends' backyards when he's unable to stay at friends’ houses, and he starts skipping school and stealing money. He begins to feel sad and guilty when he’s not drinking, so his goal becomes to always have the feeling of freedom through the "high."

7:30 - Johnny's progresses to vandalism, assault and battery, and even incarceration as a result of fighting on the street at just 13 years old. He discovers meth, and explains why he loved it. His family hopes he will change and doesn't know how to deal with him, but he continues running away.

10:18 - Johnny explains that alcohol was the gateway that led him to experiment with other drugs including heroin, meth, marijuana, and the criminal lifestyle. He also talks about how he moved on from stealing from his family to breaking into cars for electronics, gift cards, and jewelry so that he could procure drugs. His juvenile years—at least six months out of the year—are difficult: he's unable to behave and stay clean, and at 18 gets transferred straight to county jail.

12:50 - He talks about his life in jail from 18 to 34, and how easily he was able to access drugs. He provides details of the politics of prison, and the rules of race that exist in the prison system—it's a life or death matter if you don't participate. "You can get away with a lot more in prison than you can in the streets," he says. He talks about how easily he was able to access drugs. He provides details of the politics of prison, and the rules of race that exist in the prison system—it's a life or death matter if you don't participate. "You can get away with a lot more in prison than you can in the streets," he says.


19:08 - Johnny's son was born in 2009, and he discusses the impact of becoming a father at that timer—he has good intentions but is too wrapped up in prison and drug life to leave it. His son's mother and his son live with his parents, and that becomes a crutch knowing that they are well taken care of. He feels guilt and is unwelcome at his parents' house. He is able to watch his son grow up only from the outside of his parents' house, watching through the window.

24:30 - Kristi asks Johnny what it meant to not care about life, and Johnny explains that he had accepted his fate: he was good at being a criminal and could function in prison with little effort. He felt an overwhelming sense of hopelessness yet he had a sense of "better than" and never believed that he would overdose. He gets high enough that he is in an altered state, and is able to walk away from his family. Kristi explains that it's the mindset of an addict, and loved ones don't often understand that they shouldn't take it personally.

26:50 - At 34, Johnny has an overdose, and after leaving the hospital, he can't stop thinking that his life is passing him by. He has a street bike accident, and ends up with nerve damage in his back; he later gets arrested for possession of heroin, and explains how he manipulated a friend to bail him out.

30:38 - "Spiritually bankrupt" and physically disabled, Johnny hits rock bottom, and his turning point arrives. He decides to avoid living "life on installment plans," and makes a conscious decision to begin his cold-turkey detox in the medical unit of Orange County Jail. 92 days later, he is released to Reflections Recovery Center. The Intake Specialist at Reflections shows Johnny care and interest, and this ends up making a world of difference to him.

36:45 - Johnny explains a "blackout period" at his sober living house, and that it was a "magical" ten days that allowed him to learn how to meditate, journal, reflect, and read. He finds himself open-minded and willing. 

39:30 - Johnny answers the question that's on everyone's mind: "Is there anything anyone could have done to make you stop?"

41:00 - Johnny talks about his role now as the Intake Specialist at Reflections Recovery—ironically, the same role of the person who first made a difference to him. He discusses his work at Reflections, and the importance of sharing experiences and stories. Johnny points out that change is very hard for people who are struggling with addiction.

43:07 - Johnny's advice to anyone beginning or in recovery: "If you keep doing what you're doing, you'll keep getting what you're getting." Johnny also advocates Alcoholics Anonymous: treatment is a place to get quiet and get direction, but the time comes when you have to do it yourself, and AA can help you do that.

45:45 - Kristi and Johnny break down a few myths:

  • Is heroin more dangerous than alcohol?
  • What do you do someone overdoses on heroin?
  • Are drugs more dangerous when injected?
  • Is abstinence an appropriate treatment for heroin addiction?
  • Is heroin only abused by older, more experienced addicts?

49:26 - Kristi and Johnny discuss how the heroin epidemic is affecting all socioeconomic classes. Addiction does not discriminate. 

51:27 - What has grief taught Johnny? "My grief has taught me what's important in life," Johnny says. He has learned that his problems are fixable, and there's no need to resort to using.

Contact Info
If you would like to reach Johnny Pearson, you may contact him at Reflections Recovery Center. Do you have ideas for future shows on The Grief Girl, or are you interested in being a guest? Contact Kristi Hugstad at The Grief Girl.