Media, My Motivation & Me


My appearances 

Rethinking 65: Editorial Piece

"Widows are Younger Than You Think"


I'm Kathi Balasek

I train financial professionals and industries in grief literacy and empathy communication. I am a coach, consultant, speaker, university lecturer and widow advocate. I teach financial professionals how to improve their grief literacy communication skills to best serve bereaved clients.

Widowhood is financial! Experiencing the loss of my husband first hand, I learned that the relationship between financial professionals and bereaved clients is pivotal. Combining 25 years of teaching, coaching and personal experience, I created Grief Smart Advisor as a tool to help professionals retain, connect and support clients experiencing loss and grief.

We will ALL experience grief and loss. Grief leadership and communication are critical now! Brand compassion, attract and retain clients and build a reputation as a grief smart company.

Client Testimonials


Kathi is a truly wonderful and genuine person. Her personal and professional experiences have given her an amazing ability to consult others around grief literacy and communicating with empathy. She provides tangible tips and guidance for professionals and teams working with clients who have experienced loss and grief. Many shy away from navigating these waters, so it is truly wonderful to know a person, like Kathi who faces it head on with empathy, love and compassion.


Nancy Evans, BYOB Cofounder


As an advisor working exclusively with retirees I have experienced many deaths during my career.¬† No matter how strong our relationship has been, it is always a struggle to know what to say to the surviving spouse and their family.¬† Kathi‚Äôs wisdom and experience about these delicate conversations is something every advisor should know.¬† My staff loved her suggestions for sympathy cards and I have been so grateful to have new insights in this critical area of communication.¬† Thank you Kathi for your training and support.‚ÄĚ


Phil Lubinski, CFP

Co-founder WealthConductor




Kathi presented at the 2022 Retirement and Longevity Summit and the SHIFT human first conference held by Advisor2x on engaging the surviving spouse.  She understands what widows are thinking, how they are feeling and which communication skills land best with bereaved clients. Her insight is critical to building trust and guiding people when their lives are overwhelming. 


Ross Marino, CFP, CeFT
CEO Advisor2x

Why this Matters to Me

At 39, I became a widow with five children. Facing a future on my own, yet needing to lead my family was daunting. Fortunately I was raised by fabulous parents that taught me how to get up, press forward and help others no matter what. They also taught me the power of asking for help. No one gets anywhere alone.  

Experiencing widowhood is like being on the scariest rollercoaster ride and you can't get off.  The sea of emotions like fear, uncertainty, overwhelm accompanied by feeling less than, invisible and misunderstood is extremely debilitating. Honestly, I was stuck and hid my pain for years.  Then I asked for help, started working on myself and decided to stop handing out the Gatorade and get back in the game!

I did press forward. I started LIVING my life and going for it!  Courage comes out of grief.  The worse thing that I could have imagined, already happened in my life so I have nothing to lose.  I opened a a clothing business (Montana Blues), went back to school and earned a higher degree then started teaching at the university level. I currently teach at California State University, Chico where I train and mentor future teachers!  There is something pretty special about a university campus and being surrounded by the next generation of change makers.  It was the environment that helped me grow, heal and learn that we are all in this together.

Everything in my life lead me to creating what I call, my life's work - Grief Literate Professional.  On the heels of Covid,   The collective loss during Covid and the grief we all experienced was a wakeup call and it reminded me of the social isolation that I felt in widowhood years ago.  People do care, yet often they just do not know what to say, do or act around people experiencing loss.  So I decided to create a curriculum that helps people, industries and communities how to become grief fluent.  It is my love letter to the world!

People ask me often, "what am I most proud of having gone through grief and loss."  It is that all five kids are healthy, love each other, make family a priority and are contributors to a better world.  What more can I ask for?