Book Reviews

Second Firsts

Christina Rasmussen

Self Improvement, Empowerment, Family & Parenting, Psychology, Inspirational, Spirituality, Health & Healing


After studying to become a therapist and crisis intervention counselor—even doing her master's thesis on the stages of bereavement—Christina Rasmussen thought she understood grief. But it wasn't until... More

Mar 05, 2014 KDKHadacek
Sometimes I feel stuck. Not in every aspect of my life, but in a particular place or two that isn’t fulfilling or the way that I want it to be. I usually watch it for a while, dissatisfied with being stuck, but not ready to act. When I’m ready to do something, though, I’m not always sure what to do, particularly if my discomfort is social, not technical. I read a book recently though that gave me some good ideas.

I received a book from Hay House, in return for an honest review. The fact that the book was personally helpful was a bit of a surprise, because the book is about grief. Second Firsts by Christina Rasmussen (available at Amazon)is about recovering from deep-seated grief, typically experienced after the death of a spouse or child. It’s about starting over from a place where you aren’t sure you can move. I haven’t had such an event and don’t expect one (knock on wood), so at first, I passed up this book. I was intuitively drawn to it, however, and so I finally selected it and began to read. Yes, it is about how to recover from soul-numbing grief, but it is also a plan for getting unstuck after other major set-backs such as a divorce, broken engagement, job termination, or other emotionally-jarring event. You know how a major set-back can make everything just look too hard to attempt? I’m not that way in every part of my life, but there are a few hold-outs that need rehabilitation.Second Firsts by Christina Rasmussen -book jacket

The book helped me understand what was going on internally and build new pathways in my brain so that it is less likely to go down the same old highway and more willing to go down a new, more pleasant road. I learned a process to move from unable-to-do-anything to being-where-I-want-to-be using small, self-compassionate steps. I’m action-oriented in some ways, and am good at making plans and breaking a large task into smaller tasks. Here, I learned that teeny tiny non-threatening steps count. And I need to be sure I do them. Why hadn’t I applied this principle to non-technical issues such as being more socially comfortable in groups or developing friendships? These things are a bit difficult for me, and I didn’t really know how to start. It never occurred to me to make a plan, or what kind of steps I could take. The book is full of examples and ideas of tiny steps that lead to a long journey. It held my hand and showed me the way. I can take this as far as I’d like in repairing the broken places in my life.

I could say more, but I think you get the idea. Besides, my life has taken a few big steps lately in some areas of my life, challenging the less-happy areas to catch up. I think I have some thinking to do and changes to initiate – one small step at a time!

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Hay House Publishing for this review. The opinion in this review is unbiased and reflects my honest judgment of the product.
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Jan 21, 2014 kathiethaw
Christina has written a book to help people who have suffered a loss “re-enter” life again.  I admire her ability to function to the point of getting a promotion during the grief period after her husband died, while taking care of two young children.  I admire her candor and vulnerability in telling her story.  I admire her blazing the trail to starting a new life after loss.  She is an example and encouragement for all of us.  She also is a reminder to us all that although someone who has suffered a loss appears to be doing well, they can still be in deep pain.

Christina wrote the book she wished she had when she was in such grief, and what a gift for us.   Looking back on her times of conducting grief counseling, and experiencing grief counseling herself, propelled Christina to come up with something new and helpful, as a fellow traveler on the road of grief/loss, as someone who knows what it’s like.

I believe this book can be useful for everyone.  I read this book in a positive time in my life, and yet I have been through grief.  I have been through the grief of cancer, both by losing a loved one and experiencing cancer myself.  The process Christina outlines in the book can be extremely helpful to someone going through a loss.  It also can be helpful for those who want to change their life but are stuck in fear.

Even if you are in a positive time in your life, this book can help you to understand the intensity of grief that someone close to you may be experiencing due to any kind of loss.  It can help you to examine your life and make changes if you want to.  Thank you, Christina.

FTC Disclosure I received this book free from Hay House Publishing for this review. The opinions expressed in this review are unbiased and reflect my honest judgment of the product.
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Jan 11, 2014 Lovesbooks80
"You can do the impossible, because you have been through the unimaginable." p. 145

If you have ever experienced a loss in your life, either through death or divorce or something else, this book is for you. Think of it as a manual to help you navigate through the grief and suffering of loss, with the final destination being Life. As anyone that has lost someone knows, grief is debilitating and lonely and hard to break free from. This book is a helpful coach. Having experienced loss herself, the author's understanding of it and grief is real. That is not only comforting to the reader, but it also makes her advice easier to accept and her suggestions easier to follow.

I found the Grief Cleanse to be the most challenging exercise, but also the most rewarding. I experienced a great amount of frustration and anxiety while doing the written cleanse, but once completed I experienced an overwhelming amount of clarity and peace. It also helped me to want to move forward with my life.

I would really like to take the author, Christina Rasmussen, out for lunch and thank her profusely for writing the book that saved me from spending a lifetime in the Loop of Loss. I received this book at the most perfect time. I had just been lamenting to a friend about how I couldn't seem to shake the sadness that had been following me for years after suffering a devastating loss when this book arrived in the mail. I intended to devour it, cover to cover, in one sitting, but the book's structure did not lend itself to that. Instead, I read it slowly, page by page, stopping frequently to take notes in the margin, underline important parts I want to remember, and journaling when instructed by Christina. I know that this book has changed my life, thrusting me forward out of the Waiting Room and into the miraculous present. I am re-entering Life and it feels so good. This book will have a special place on my bookshelf, and I intend to buy one for every person in my life that could benefit from its words. My life has been transformed.
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Jan 09, 2014 uma
“…when it’s your time to go, you won’t wish you had spent more time grieving; you’ll wish you had spent more time living.”

I love Christina Rasmussen’s words. Her message to every reader of Second Firsts: Live, Laugh and Love Again is a wake-up call.

Doing a master’s thesis on the stages of bereavement doesn’t guarantee mastery over grief. This was brought home to Christina when she was widowed in 2006 at age 34 and tried to explain to her six- and four-year-old daughters that daddy was never coming home.

It took time. A lot of time. And patience and trust and strength. But she gathered the broken pieces of her self and started the process of recreating a new version of herself.

Combining the science of brain neuroplasticity and grief healing techniques, Christina has created the Life Reentry process, a powerful tool that moves a griever past surviving, to thriving. Instead of pushing away from grief or rushing it, her approach is to use it as a catalyst to create a life aligned with your values and passions. The result: you will live, laugh and love again.

The 5-stage Life Reentry process essentially involves rewiring the brain to create new neural pathways that will help you choose and reclaim happiness.

Stage 1: Getting Real. This means validating the pain of your loss by acknowledging your feelings and beliefs. You also learn to indulge in a Grief Cleanse ritual allowing your grief space to speak, and activate your Watcher, the observer in you that supports an objective view of the world.

Stage 2: Plug In. Here, you learn how to do quick 5 % plug-ins: tiny action steps you can take right away to help build new neural pathways. It could be a Belief Plug In (an affirmation you create and embrace), a Home Plug In (choosing to change one room in your home so it reflects your brand-new life), the Letting Go of Friendship Plug In (identifying how that person makes you feel and figuring out how to let go).

Stage 3: Shift. You start to work toward ending the habit of repeating thoughts of loss and begin to repeat thoughts of life. This slight frequency change in your brain and heart will shift the possibility of new life experiences. It is the ability to detach from your former self.

Stage 4: Discover. This is about reconnecting with the innocent, curious part of you, your Thriver. This is the part of you that has dreams and engages with life. It’s about unearthing the part of you that knew joy before pain became your default setting.

Stage 5: Reenter Life. “During the reentry process you need to remember that life has not killed your dreams. Grief did. Your brain did. Your loss of hope killed the dreams you once had.” This stage is about creating your new destiny, one that is more aligned with the real you that existed before grief hijacked you. Joy, laughter, love and dreams are birthed anew in this stage.

With case studies and personal anecdotes to support her scaffolding, Christina’s book teems with ideas on reentering life with vigor and vitality after a loss. Visit for more.

Click the link to tune in live on Jan 15 (7 PM CST/ 8 EST) to listen to my interview with Christina Rasmussen on The Grammar of Grief radio show.

I received this book for free from Hay House Publishing for review purpose.
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Dec 14, 2013 CreateWithJoy

Every now and then you come across a book that is so important – so essential – so life-changing – you wish you could put a copy in the hands of every person who needs it.

Second Firsts – Live, Laugh, and Love Again by Christina Rasmussen is one of those books.

Second Firsts is written for people who have experienced a life-changing loss that runs so deep, that their old life vanishes in an instant and everything must be rebuilt from the ground up.

In Second Firsts, Christina offers you a viable path through the pain but – more importantly – she will help you find your way into a brighter, more vibrant future.

Christina is no stranger to grief. Although she wrote her master's thesis on the stages of bereavement, when she lost her husband after a three-year battle with cancer, she soon discovered that nothing she'd been taught or believed about the experience of profound loss was accurate.

In her opening message to her readers, Christina writes:
I have lived in the shadow of loss – the kind of loss that can paralyze you forever.
I have grieved like a professional mourner – in every waking moment, draining every ounce of my life force.
I died – without leaving my body. But I came back, and now it’s your turn.
I have learned to remember my past – without living in it.
I am strong, electric, and alive, because I chose to dance, to laugh, to love, and to live again.
I have learned that you can’t re-create the life you once had – you have to reinvent a life for yourself.

And that reinvention is a gift, not a curse.

What Christina has learned – and shares in Second Firsts – is that it’s important not to stay stuck in the “waiting room of grief”. Through her revolutionary 5-Step Life Reentry Model,

Christina helps us to move past our loss and our grief and to focus our energies on more positive aspirations – that of re-inventing a better life and a better future for ourselves.

Christina reminds us:
If you’re lost… if you’re gone… if you can barely absorb the words on this page… I want you to hold this truth in your heart: when it’s your time to go, you won’t wish you had spent more time grieving; you’ll wish you had spent more time living.

Second Firsts is an inspiring book that will retain a permanent spot on my bookshelf for years to come.

If you are having difficulty dealing with loss of any type in your life, I highly recommend Second Firsts.

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Nov 29, 2013 hhreviewer2

What sets apart Second Firsts by Christina Rasmussen from other books, or self-help books, on grief is that the author shares her very personal tragedy of losing her husband to cancer in their thirties, and the real-life solutions that she developed and that helped her out of her own grief toward "second firsts".

An interesting tidbit about the author is that although she'd been a grief counselor before this terrible tragedy in her own life, she realized through her own experience afterward that when you're grief stricken yourself, help can feel very hollow when it comes from a person who has never experienced such intense grief in their own lives.

Similar to Elizabeth Kubler-Ross' five stages of grief, Christina Rasmussen's five stages of "Life Re-entry" are: Get Real, Plug In, Shift, Discover, and Re-enter Life. In Second Firsts, the author walks the reader through each stage, but also gives background from her own journey on why each stage is so important.

I believe that anyone who has experienced any kind of grief, not just the loss of a loved one, could benefit from these stages of "Life Re-entry". However, it would be beneficial to those who are in the "Waiting Room" - Christina Rasmussen explains this as when a person reaches a point at which they are at least considering the idea of change - rather than someone who is newly grieved. The concepts in the book might feel far too shocking to someone who has just gone through a tremendous loss, at least that is my opinion based on my own experience.

Otherwise, Second Firsts by Christina Rasmussen is a book about grief from a woman who not only has experienced it firsthand, but who gently guides you on your journey through your own "second firsts".

This is my review of Second Firsts by Christina Rasmussen. I acknowledge that I received this book free from Hay House Publishing to review. The opinion in this review is unbiased and reflects my honest judgment.

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Nov 10, 2013 blackbirdktleigh
This isn’t someone telling you what you should do from a far-away tower; this is someone in the trenches with you gently guiding you out of the mire back to yourself. We each have what it takes to overcome grief at its most debilitating; we just have to uncover it. Although Christina was a therapist and crisis intervention counselor, it wasn’t until she experienced the loss of her husband that she truly understood what loss is. Her turnaround came when she started studying neuroscience/neuroplasticity and the habitual pathways our thoughts make and take. Loss is integral with life, there is no one without the other. Whether your loss was sudden and devastating or a series of ‘invisible’ losses made you realize you are not really you anymore, this book can lead you back to your spunk and fire while looking compassionately at your grief and giving it due honor. This isn’t do this, do that type of ‘help’, this is thought-provoking, thoroughly individual baby steps that will internally and intuitively turn into bounding, leaping steps leading to life anew. It’s time to get out of your ‘waiting room’ and out of the ‘infinite loop of loss’ into action and onto new roads!
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Nov 07, 2013 booksalicious

Second Firsts, Live, Laugh, and Love Again is a book that truly opened my eyes to what my grieving process was truly causing in my life as far as not going out, spending time with my friends and family and not moving forward from the painful loss of my maternal Grandfather who was a huge influence in my life. The author Christina uses the painful and traumatic loss of her husband as a catalyst to show the reader how at first she too had trouble moving forward with her own grief and in her own life; with a gentle push and in your own time Christina encourages the reader through a series of exercises and self timed steps to use grief as a step to move out of the waiting room of grief and to use your pain as a step to a new and fulfilling life, that is not an echo of your old life, but a completely new and bright life that you can achieve through believing both in yourself and in you’re ability to make good decisions and continue to move forward. I can honestly say that this is the most refreshing thing I have read since the loss of my Grandfather that has helped me move past the numbness of the loss and back into feeling like myself again. I would recommend it to anyone who has recently loss anyone or who is going through a divorce or tough time in their lives.

This book was provided by Hayhouse as a review copy in return for an honest review thank you!

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Nov 01, 2013 rschechter
Every so often the right book gets into your hands at exactly the right time. This was the case for with Christa Rasmussen's Second Firsts: Live, Laugh and Love Again. I had recently set a personal goal that I wanted to change my relationship with loss and grief. Throughout my life, whether the it has been the death of a loved one or the loss of a key relationship, I have struggled with moving forward. In these times, I am an isolator, privately trying to attend to these wounds when the reality has been, I really don't know how to do this.

Speaking from experience, Christina Rasmussen shows the way. After sharing her own heartbreak, the loss of her 34-year old husband, she introduces her Life Reentry program which provides practical steps to help you reprogram not only how you think about loss and grieving, but also to help you build new habits that encourage you to also focus on living at the same time. After acknowledging the loss you have suffered, a large part of this method focuses on thinking of and using plug-ins for yourself. A plug-in is a small actionable step that you can take to push yourself to move outside of your comfort zone. An example of a plug-in post-divorce, breakup or death, would be to set up an online dating account or accepting an invitation for a date. The focus of a plug-in is on the steps you are taking to rebuild and create a new life; not on the outcome of those steps.

After every loss we endure, we are at a crossroads when we have to assign meaning to that loss. If loss and grieving are handled improperly, or not at all, the negative effects can be long-lasting. If you were never taught how to process grief, observed grieving that was accompanied by a lack of living or want to learn how to grieve wisely, this book is for you.

*FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Hay House Publishing for this review. The opinion in this review is unbiased and reflects my honest judgment of the product.
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Oct 30, 2013 somertonsmith
Over the past five years or so, several people close to me lost spouses due to death or divorce. From my position at one degree of separation, I watched them discover their individual paths to "second firsts." Each person took a different route and a different amount of time, but all their paths shared similar obstacles and milestones.

"Grief walked into your heart and created room for your soul to grow." —Christina Rasmussen in Second Firsts

I recognized these same obstacles and milestones in Christina Rasmussen's experience of loss and her recommendations for recovery. In her mid-30s, Rasmussen lost her husband to colon cancer. Much of the book content related back to her own personal experiences with grief and life rebuilding, so her stories will resonate with anyone recovering from a disrupted relationship.

Anyone starting over after any kind of life change will find her book helpful though, because her themes resonated with me in other ways, too. I experienced the same fear, frustration and exhilaration when I left my career behind to become a stay-at-home mother. That was a "second first" for me. And I realized that a reluctance to let go is brewing inside me now as my children grow and lead more independent lives: when my home becomes an "empty nest," I will create yet another new life—a "third first."

"Launching a new life is a strategic, active process. It doesn't happen by accident. . . . If they are operating in the default mode of the old self, they will continue to experience the pain of resistance. This pain should not be mistaken for grief. It's like trying to put on clothes you used to wear comfortably, which no longer fit you." —Christina Rasmussen in Second Firsts

Most people are familiar with the Elisabeth Kübler-Ross book On Death and Dying and her theory of the five stages of grief. Rasmussen's book builds on that theory, offering a how-to guide on re-creating life even as people walk through the five phases of grief. She breaks it down into five "Life Reentry Stages": Get Real, Plug In, Shift, Discover, and Reenter Life. Her five stages encourage mindful reflection of emotions and circumstances and step-by-step "plugging in" to new activities. Gentle but persistent progress ensures that mourners don't get stuck in the "Waiting Room" of grief, immobilized by fear and a reluctance to let go of no-longer-appropriate "clothing."

"It's important not to resist grieving. But distinguish between true mourning and the repetition of loss. Repetition of loss is a natural, albeit ultimately unhealthy, practice of going over the whys , the hows, and the if onlys of your past long after a loss has occurred." —Christina Rasmussen in Second Firsts

From my position at one degree of separation from profound loss, I found this book comfortable reading. I think those with a recent, raw experience of grief would find it difficult to face immediately. They might need to set the book aside for a time until they are ready to start the first Life Reentry Stage. But if you need to re-create a new life, for whatever reason, this book provides encouragement and guidance. If you know someone stuck in the "Waiting Room," maybe this book will nudge them to begin their second first life.


I was not financially compensated for this post. I received the book from Hay House for review purposes. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions are completely my own based on my experience.
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