Kathy Dart Wagner: ‘The Next Day Came’ – Empower Your Purpose

Kathy Dart Wagner The Next Day Came Empower Your Purpose

 

Kathy Dart Wagner is the “Empower Your Purpose” speaker and best-selling author. She was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois and has earned both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in Criminal Justice from California State University with highest honors.

Kathy is an international speaker and a No. 1 International bestselling author of the “The Next Day Came,” a trilogy that reveals her journey through depression, addiction, planned suicide, and survival after the unimaginably violent loss of her two sons in separate homicides, ironically after serving as a former Transportation Officer in the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.

She is a Gold Star Mother, as a result of her oldest son, killed on active duty in the U.S. Navy, during Operation Iraqi Freedom. She is the Vice President of her local chapter where her volunteerism helps veterans, their families, and the community. Kathy Dart Wagner also speaks on their behalf, promotes awareness of their service, and raises contributions for their organization.

Kathy has traveled the world helping hundreds of people by speaking on the topics of loss, the loss of multiple children and only children, gun violence, grief, addiction, learning disabilities, survival, and how to thrive. With profound empathy Kathy Dart Wagner empowers people to find the purpose in their pain and transform that purpose into a new passion.

She has appeared on NBC News, and on stages with the Joint Chief of Staff, General Mark Milley, Governor Rick Scott, Country Singer Rockie Lynne, Nancy Matthews, Gary Coxe, Bob Circosta, Dr. Lydie Louis, Matt Bacak, J.T. Foxx, and Shannon Gronich.

She “bent steel” with Bert Oliva, and “jumped” at 14,000 feet with the U.S. Army Elite Parachute Team – The Golden Knights. Kathy Dart Wagner has discovered ways to not only survive, but to thrive under extreme circumstances. Her mission is to honor her sons in everything she says and does while being the person, they always believed her to be.

Conversation with Kathy Dart Wagner

As an author and speaker, tell us more about your trilogy of books. Why did you decide to write the story of your two sons and about your journey to reclaim your life? What promise did you make to your sons? What is your big why?

Kathy Dart Wagner: I started writing “The Next Day Came” two years ago, on Super Bowl Sunday. I had a house full of people and a party going on. All of a sudden, I was drawn to open my computer. I typed chapter one and I just started writing. I truly believe that my two sons are helping me from up above because they seemed to remember things that I don’t remember, but the writing and the stories just come out. That one book has turned into three books, a Trilogy.

I started telling the story of my son Jeffrey. He was my youngest son, who was killed in a robbery at age 18. He had a genius IQ of 163 and acute dyslexia. His book tells his whole life story, about learning disabilities and our struggles with the public-school system. In the end, I had to put my son, Jeffrey, in private schools and “at risk” schools. It cost me $100,000 and a bankruptcy to get him through high school.

I made a promise to that five-year-old little boy when he was diagnosed with dyslexia , that I would get him through high school, and I did, and then two months later, when he was only 18, a guy put a sawed off shotgun on his stomach and pulled the trigger during a robbery in Las Vegas. The first book is all about his story, and how all that happened.

It is a very, very heartfelt story. Jeffrey was an old soul. I always told people he was four going on forty. I got divorced when my two sons were three years old and eight-months old. When I was struggling and depressed, as a single parent trying to get through, Jeffrey would sit on my lap and tell me it was going to be OK — that we were going to make it. He was a really cool kid.

The second book starts on 9-11-2001, because at that time my older son, Bud, was in the Navy Reserves. I thought he would be safe, but 9-11 changed everything. The Navy called him up to active duty. He volunteered to go first, so somebody with a wife and kid did not have to go war. I honestly believed he would be safe — I believed the Universe would not take another child from me, but it did. Although Bud was killed during his service to Operation Iraqi Freedom, he was killed in a homicide, at age 24.

The promise you asked about was made to my two sons as they were growing up: I always told them how important an education was—that with an education, you could do anything. Nobody could ever take that away from them. I worked hard to raise them as a single mom. I promised them that when they grew up, I would go to college and get a an “easier” job.

When they died, that was literally what I did. I went to college for six years. I earned two degrees in their honor. I earned a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree, one for each of them. So that was the first big promise. That promise kept me alive for the first six years after their deaths. I ended up getting my degrees in Criminal Justice. I was trying to figure out why people killed my sons.

Were either one of your son’s cases solved?

Kathy Dart Wagner: Yes. The first one, Jeffreys murderer. They caught the guy, but the state plea bargained it— it fell to manslaughter with use of a deadly weapon. He did less than 12 years on a 20-year sentence. He is out now. The second one, who killed Bud, they never caught the people. They kind of botched the investigation. I tell that story in Bud’s Story, Book Two.

You survived the loss of your two sons. What are the steps you used to empower yourself and to find the purpose in the pain and transform that purpose into a new passion for life?

Kathy Dart Wagner: I created the “Thriver Program.” There are seven steps that empower people to: Reboot, Recharge and Reclaim their lives. First, for the “T” in Thriver, you must move from Tragedy to Thriving. For me, it has all been about giving back. I share my story and my journey. When it comes to dealing with a loss, you must talk about it, or all your emotions are stuffed inside.

Sharing gives you power to get through the pain. It honors and respects your feelings and emotions. One day you are laughing and the next moment, you are crying. By not sharing, you are just locking yourself up and then you think you are crazy. It is traumatic, but it is OK. You will be amazed at how many people have similar stories, and it opens them up. You realize that you are not alone.

Next, for the “H” in Thriver, people who experience a loss need to learn how to Handle the SCW’s. That is, they play the – “would have, should have, could have game” – in their head. You can play this game forever, but it is not going to change anything. These thoughts go around and around and get you nowhere but sad and depressed. They keep you from sleeping, you get out of bed exhausted. Playing the “would have, could have, should have” game is not going to help you. I teach people to try to move from that pain and find a blessing.

Third, for the “R” in Thriver, I teach that people constantly need to Refine Your Purpose. My first purpose was to get that college education I promised my sons. The best way I have learned to deal with that was to have a very structured routine. I got up; I went to college; I got good grades. I actually learned how to play golf in college. I got physically active. My kids used to swim competitively. I learned how to swim competitively. It just was something I could do that they used to do. I even learned how to do that flip at the end of the pool, and how to do the breathing.

I also got a new puppy. I also dealt with it with humor, laughing is one of the best medicines for pain and hurt. Even if you just laugh for a little bit, it makes it better. But there are other things you could do like meditate, pray, jog, walk, lift weights, read books, anything that takes your mind off it. I actually shifted my energies into doing something positive and productive. I learned how to play golf. smacking that little ball around was really helpful in helping me reclaim my life.
So, when you say, “reclaim your life,” what does that mean? And how do you do that?

I talk about the reboot, recharge, and reclaim your life in my talks. It does not matter what you lose, I happen to have the ultimate loss of losing not only one, but two children, all my children. I do not have any other children. I do not even get grandchildren. But it does not matter what you lose, you can lose a job, your home, or a relationship. I just had friends that lost two dogs and they were just devastated because for them, that was their children. You must go through the same grief process. You must go through that pain, and you have to find a purpose and hopefully you can find a positive out of that experience in the end.
I could not have told you this in the first 10 years but losing my children has actually made me a better person. I am a much kinder person. I take more time and look at things differently. I am a much more loving person because I realize that every day is a gift. There is no guarantee that we are going to have tomorrow, so you should enjoy today. Be kind to the people that you have in your life and enjoy the things you do have in your life because we are very blessed with the things we have.
To reclaim your life, you have to find and focus on your purpose. That next purpose may lead you to your bigger purpose—I went to college and I fulfilled a promise to my sons. Then I got involved in the Goldstar mothers and now writing these books has become my purpose. Your purpose is always changing. You can always have a different purpose or refine it and make it a more focused purpose. To me, this trilogy is it. It actually honors my children and it shows that their life was more than just death.

I saw you took a Leap of Faith jump out of an airplane with the US Army. Why did jumping out of an airplane make sense for you? Do you think jumping out of an airplane is a metaphor of anything in life?

You mentioned me jumping out of an airplane with the US Army—with the Golden Knights parachute team. That jump out of that airplane was called “the leap of faith.” And—that is what it was to me. I had no intention of jumping out of an airplane at 14,000 feet, but it is something my sons, both of them would have done because they were very adventurous. I did it for them.

When I jumped, they wrote my sons names on my hands. I had Bud on one hand and Jeff on the other hand in black marker, and when I jumped, they were in my hands. They jumped with me. It was the closes I have been to them in a long time. Heaven was right above me. That jump was like a big metaphor for life—a leap of faith.

Then, I bent steel. They take you up on the stage and they put a piece of wrought iron on your throat and another person’s throat across from you. They talk to you about letting go of your fears and anxieties, and then literally, you walk toward each other and this half inch piece of wrought iron bends as you walk. You must have faith and trust what Bert is saying is going to work. And—it did!

How does doing those extreme, adventurous things that are really, really scary help you?

I have the utmost belief that I am right where I am supposed to be, and I am doing what I am supposed to do. My purpose is to share this story with people and to share the legacy of my two sons and to be the person they believe me to be. When it is my time to go, I am going to go. So, I am not really afraid of anything. In fact, Kim (my spouse) always laughs when I get on a plane, I just tell people, “You’re all safe because I’m on the plane, because I’m not going to go. I’ve got a long time to be here, so you’re all safe.” It is kind of funny. I just feel very confident that I am doing what I am supposed to be doing. I do not worry about it.

People always ask me, “how did you survive losing two children in two years?” I say, “Well, the next day came, and then the next day came, and then the next day came, and I just kept going, because I had promises I had to keep. And then I had purposes I had to fulfill.” I also have a little saying I like to say which is, “Sometimes you have to let go of the vision of how you thought your life would turn out and learn to find the joy in the life you’ve been dealt.”

I never imagined this would be how my life turned out when I raised these two little boys. I always thought they would take care of me when I got old and, and now I look at like, well, who’s going to take care of me when I get old? But that is OK. It will all work out. I have faith. Do not give up. Never, never give up hope.

About Kathy Dart Wagner

Kathy is an international speaker and a No. 1 International bestselling author of the “The Next Day Came,” a trilogy that reveals her journey through depression, addiction, planned suicide, and survival after the unimaginably violent loss of her two sons in separate homicides, ironically after serving as a former Transportation Officer in the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.
She is a Gold Star Mother, as a result of her oldest son, killed on active duty in the U.S. Navy, during Operation Iraqi Freedom. She is the Vice President of her local chapter where her volunteerism helps veterans, their families, and the community. Kathy Dart Wagner also speaks on their behalf, promotes awareness of their service, and raises contributions for their organization. Her mission is to honor her sons in everything she says and does while being the person, they always believed her to be.

WEBSITE: http://www.KDWagner.com
EMAIL: MeetMe@KDWagner.com
FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/speakerkdwagner
TEXT: GoldStar to 64600

Tamara “Tami” Patzer is the creator of the News Digest Inc. Media Network, Authority Footprint Formula, creator/producer of Beyond of the Best Seller Marketing System, Host of Women Innovators Radio, and Contributing Writer at JRQTV News.

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