“David Kessler and Brené on Grief and Finding Meaning” | Unlocking Us with Brené Brown

Image Credit: Vasilina Sirotina via Unsplash,

Written by H. WEND. January 27th, 2023.

The Podcast

Image Source: ©2023 Brené Brown, LLC

Unlocking Us with Brené Brown is the podcast that drew me into the podcast world. In fact, it was this very episode that I listened to first which means this podcast is special!

Unlocking Us is one of two exclusive podcasts with Brené Brown available on Spotify.

Unlocking Us is a podcast with meaningful conversations around the bravest and most heartbroken moments we experience and how unlocking them can help us to live with more courage and heart.

Image Source: ©2023 Brené Brown, LLC

Brené Brown is a research professor who has spent the past two decades studying courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy.

She is the author of six #1 New York Times best sellers.

Brené holds the Huffington Foundation’s Endowed Chair at the University of Houston’s Graduate College of Social Work and is a visiting professor at the University of Texas at Austin.

Using her evidence-based research and charisma delivered in captivating lectures, Brené inspires us to lead with vulnerability, be daring, courageous and empathetic. Brené has expanded our vocabulary on emotions and helps us to further connect with ourselves and others.

Brené announced in December 2022 that Unlocking Us would be coming to an end, with her final episode being “Brené and Ashley on Living BIG, Part 2 of 2” which aired on January 4th 2023, on Spotify.

Though I am sad there will not be anymore content, there is still so much in the series that is worth listening to!

The Guest

David Kessler is an author, public speaker, and death and grieving expert.

David has used his own experiences in loss and grief as well as his experience with thousands of people on the edge of life and death to learn the secrets to living a happy and fulfilled life, even after life’s tragedies. He is the author of six books, including the new bestselling book, Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief.

His first book, The Needs of Dying received praise from Saint (Mother) Teresa. David co-authored two books with psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross: Life Lessons: Two Experts on Death and Dying Teach Us About the Mysteries of Life and Living, and On Grief & Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief Through the Five Stages of Grief, the latter which became a scaffold for people dealing with grief.

David’s volunteer work includes being an LAPD Specialist Reserve for traumatic events and having served on the Red Cross’s disaster services team. David is the founder of www.grief.com which has over five million visits yearly from 167 countries.

The Episode

David Kessler and Brené on Grief and Finding Meaning

31st March 2020

David Kessler joins Brenè Brown in a warm and mind-blowing episode of Unlocking Us where David shares insights about his new book on the sixth stage of grief and how he came to the decision to add the sixth stage. David talks about the impact of the loss of his younger son and the state of the world during the COVID-19 pandemic. Together, Brené and David bring a soul-filling conversation to the table to create opportunities to learn more about grief

“Grief is a tough subject and I’ve just had very few people who have the ability to take my hand and walk me through it in a way like David has.”

Brené Brown, David Kessler and Brenè on Grief and Finding Meaning, Unlocking Us

Brené admits she’s “grief afraid, a little bit.” It’s the perfect statement of vulnerability that I feel many of us can relate to. The vulnerability and relatability at the start of the conversation provides a gentle ease into the episode.

In this episode, David endearingly talks about his work with Elisabeth Kübler Ross, whose work he studied in college and whom he later had the privilege to become friends with and work with. David and Elisabeth both studied death and grief, and combined their work to co-author two books. The second book “On Grief and Grieving” describes the five stages of grief, which David reiterates the stages were and are descriptive, not linear.

David had experienced devastating loss as a child which helped him in his journey to studying death and grief. In 2016, he experienced the loss of his 21-year-old son.

“It is the worst call you can get, at least it was for me- it was my worst call I could get.”

David Kessler, David Kessler and Brené on Grief and Finding Meaning, Unlocking Us

Kessler describes the initial impact the loss of his son had on him and his work. He explains the discoveries he made in his work on how we find light in the darkness and find meaning after loss.

David addresses “how a grief expert deals with the grief of his son” – even though it’s not so much the grief expert dealing with the grief but rather the father.

David talks about how his book “On Finding Meaning”, the proposed sixth stage of grief came to be.

While going through the different stages of grief David says he could identify the stages he was experiencing but when it came to “acceptance” he had decided that it was not enough.

Most people believe that once they find acceptance that it is the end of grief but David insists that it is not and in Brené’s words “hearts stay broken” but it is what we do afterwards.

Finding Meaning is about navigating life after loss toward a more peaceful and hopeful experience with grief. It is not a stage you can enter without dealing with your pain, as Kessler says in the podcast “you have to feel it to heal it.”

“The idea of meaning did not take away my pain but it gave me a cushion that I had not noticed before.”

David Kessler, David Kessler and Brené on Grief and Finding Meaning, Unlocking Us

An interesting perspective is taken when Brené asks David about the state of the world, during the pandemic in 2020.

David defines grief as the death of something, not just the death of a loved one, but also the death of a marriage or relationship, a job loss and even the death of the world we knew before the pandemic, which is a grief most of us began to experience during the COVID-19 pandemic.

He then describes the challenges faced during a collective grief- like the one we began to experience during the COVID-19 pandemic- when life came to a halt and we experienced many losses.

It’s important to remember that we don’t grieve exactly alike. Holding judgement of each other’s grief is hurtful.

Within the stage of finding meaning is understanding that every loss is valid and incomparable.

“The worst loss is always yours.”

David Kessler, David Kessler and Brené on Grief and Finding Meaning, Unlocking Us

There is the enlightening reference to “The Parable of The Long Spoons” David tells, whichighlights the importance of taking care of others and witnessing each other’s grief.

This was one of many of my “mind-blown”moments during the episode because one thing that I was struggling with, at the time of listening to this episode, was holding judgement and comparing my loss to others. I felt burdened by my grief, that no one could understand or compare in any way. I felt as though I had it worst and as a result I felt isolated. To me, the parable of the long spoons made me realise that I could change the way I was dealing with my grief and connect with others. It was what helped me utilise acceptance and step toward my stage of “finding meaning.”

“The meaning is not in the death, the meaning is what we do after. The meaning is in us, that’s where the meaning lies. That’s what we can create.”

David Kessler, David Kessler and Brené on Grief and Finding Meaning, Unlocking Us

At the end of the episode, learn more about David Kessler in a few fun rapid fire questions Brené likes to ask guests at the close of each episode!

Listening to this podcast episode was such a gift and a wonderful introduction to me of the work of David Kessler.

When we experience grief, it can leave you at such a loss. If you’re like me, you might search for every possible tool that can help you get through it. This podcast episode is one to add to the list of tools, as well as David Kessler’s book “Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief.”

I am forever grateful for this episode!



  1. pvcann says:

    I love her work, thanks for this

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hannah M. says:

      Me too 😊 Thank you for checking this post out!


  2. Priti says:



  3. Katherine says:

    OMG, this is such an insightful post! I’ve been meaning to read her books, but I’m way behind with my other books list. 😅

    Thanks for sharing! ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. H. WEND says:

      No way! That is awesome, I’m sure you’ll get to them! She’s amazing. I’m currently listening to her book- Rising Strong. I cannot get enough of her stuff 😊


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