We all have different reasons for starting over. Maybe it’s because you have to because of job loss or divorce. Or maybe there’s been a burning desire to try something. Or in the case of Carol Cassara, you retire from a long career and then start over. For Carol, it wasn’t a desire to start over that drove her to create her new business. Instead, it was being by the side of her best friend through illness and death. Out of grief, a new business was formed.
Can you please introduce yourself, tell us what you do and where you do it?
A Healing Spirit, my business, offers products and services that support healing of all kinds. My particular focus is helping people with grief issues, and those who suffer from anxiety, are in chemo or other treatment, who are battling big diseases like cancer, Crohn’s, M.S. and just about any other major disease. I also teach people how to use their mind to manage pain.
Your previous career was as a Corporate Communications Exec and a Reputation Management Consultant. Can you explain more about what these jobs entailed?
I ran the PR, creative, tech writing, events and advertising activities for high-tech companies in Silicon Valley. Later, in my consulting position, I specialized in helping high profile people rehabilitate their public and media images. Periodically I taught college, both graduate and undergraduate courses, part-time; usually in PR, Advertising, Writing and Entrepreneurship.
Your Corporate roles involved writing. Was this something that you’ve always wanted to do?
Not only wanted to do but did do, as both a professional writer and as a lover of writing. My first published piece for pay was at age 16; I had a column in the local newspaper. I was a journalism major for undergrad and all along the way I’ve been a first-person essayist and am modestly published in anthologies and literary journals. Writing has always been my first love.
In my blog, I write a lot about trying new things and people who start over. You already had a successful corporate life and could have just retired and enjoyed traveling. Why did you decide that you needed to do more?
I’m still trying to figure out the answer to that question and the only one I can come up with is that it was a calling and I had to answer. My best friend had a six-year battle with cancer. I was with her just about every step of the way and she inspired the business. Spending so much time together, we talked about all of the things that are part of the business now. Those conversations and the crude little handmade affirmations I did for her while she was in the hospital in 2015 are now part of what I offer to others, all dedicated to her.
Can you talk us through your timeline because it’s very interesting and not only includes blogging but past life regression and products that support healing?
I remarried and retired from consulting in 2009 and taught college after that for the love of it. My friend got sick around 2010 and although I taught, I also accompanied her to treatments, doctor appointments, the hospital and even spent nights with her. In early 2015 I made some hand-drawn affirmations, boxed them up and brought them to her while she was at Stanford for a few weeks. I saw the box sitting on her tray table the next few days—she’d been using them, her friends had been reading them, too—and she said, “You have to make and market these.” After she died in December 2015, that’s what I did—and more.
The cards I made her are now a beautiful deck of 50 Healing Affirmations, meant to encourage, support and engage the mind/body connection for healing. I have had such good feedback about them from patients who use them as a daily meditation during their treatment or even if not in treatment–just because they set a positive tone for the day.
There’s also a helpful Guided Journal for Healing, with activities and prompts meant to help direct thoughts and actions toward healing. Numerous studies have shown that cancer patients who write about their emotions about their disease have fewer symptoms and cancer-related doctor visits than those who write other things or not at all. The prompts make it easy to talk about those feelings in a safe place—and if you don’t like to write you can draw or even cut things out and collage, which one of my friends is doing right now as she battles cancer.
And now, I offer gift packages. I’ve put them together with some other things in a beautiful gift package that I ship free anywhere in the US and discounted shipping to Australia and Canada. So if you can’t be there for a friend like I could, you can affordably send a lovely, useful package.
Grief is something I’m very familiar with –it’s a universal—and it’s meant to be felt, not stuffed. Often, well-meaning loved ones think we should be “over it” in a certain amount of time. That’s just not how grief works. So it can be hard to share our feelings over time. My Guided Journal Through Grief provides a safe place to share how we feel and is used the same way as the Healing Journal. There are prompts and activities. You can write, collage, draw—whatever—to express your emotions. It then becomes a lovely memorial to your loved one.
We also offer Grief Affirmation Cards, which can be used as a daily meditation, honoring our loved one. Grief is not something we “get over” but it does transform over time. The hole in our hearts stays, though. That’s the price we pay for loving.
I’m not a therapist and don’t to therapy. Instead, I can have grief discussions with clients, allowing them to air their feelings and their grief. I studied for a year in a graduate program for hypnotherapy and past life regression. Hypnosis can be helpful in any kind of healing, so I offer those services as well, both in person and via Skype.
I also have several downloadable audios that use hypnosis. They are guided imagery that helps with pain management, anxiety, chemo support, pre and post surgery and even grief. The grief guided imagery is my favorite—it takes the listener to a place where they can talk to their loved one in their mind. It’s powerful and I have done it for everyone I’ve lost. I just can’t explain how moving and healing it is. Just lovely.
As a past life regressionist, I can guide travelers to discover their past lives or the time between lives when plans were made for this life. These are powerful journeys for the intrepid internal explorer. What’s great is that I can do them via Skype and that’s equally effective as in person—and sometimes more so.
There’s channeling and chakra balancing—so many healing services, both traditional and more new age. It’s all laid out at AHealingSpirit.org
What do you love most about your new career and lifestyle and what do you miss about your old career?
I don’t miss anything about my old career. “To everything, there is a season.” Through A Healing Spirit, I love that I can really contribute by helping people during some of the toughest times of their lives. I feel incredibly fulfilled by this work
What do you offer in your Healing Spirit Packages and Services and what’s been the most popular so far?
The condolence gift packages and the healing gift packages have been popular. I have two prices and since shipping is free in the US and discounted to Australia and Canada, it’s a caring and an affordable way to tell someone you’re thinking of them when you can’t be there.
And of course, I love helping people through hypnosis. Every client is different, every situation unique.
Looking back to when you made the career transition, is there anything that you wish you’d done differently or anything that you felt wasn’t working out and you dropped or changed along the way?
I never had a plan for the transition or for any career development along the way. Opportunities came up and I either took them or passed. I was lucky; it worked out well. This is just one more opportunity. However, I came at A Healing Spirit from the heart and not enough from the head. I might have done more planning if I could do it again. It would’ve been less stressful!
Did you get any advice or help from others while embarking on your new career? What is the best advice or assistance that you got along the way?
The best advice I got was from another BFF who told me to relax and not be so concerned about an early return on investment: that my horizon was longer than I thought and that was ok. It was so liberating to hear that from her as I respect her business acumen very much.
And to go along with that question, what advice do you have for someone looking to make a career change during midlife or later?
Use both your heart and your head. Understand what the weakest points of your plan are and make sure you cover yourself. And to remember that undercapitalization is the biggest reason most businesses fail. I’m always happy to talk to anyone considering a transition—just email me at email@example.com
(All Pictures used in this post were provided by Carol from AHealingSpirit.org and used with her permission.)