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Omaha Magazine

The Hot Widows Club Podcast Provides Solace for Others

Aug 22, 2023 02:55PM ● By Kim Carpenter
Hosts of the Hot  Widows Club Podcast  Allie Bruening (right)  and Crystal Sauser (left).

Photo by Bill Sitzmann.

Hosts of the Hot Widows Club Podcast Crystal Sauser  (right) and Allie Bruening (left).

Listen to this article here. Audio Provided by Radio Talking Book Service.

Crystal Sauser and Allie Bruening describe themselves as “tired as hell from raising kids, wiping asses, making decisions, and being parents—if you know, you know.” 

Actually, most people don’t know—at least not in their late 30s or early 40s. That’s when both women watched their husbands die from cancer; agonizing experiences that left each feeling helpless. But when they lost their soulmates, they found each other, and through their tears, they somehow managed to laugh long enough to found the Hot Widows Club Podcast, an online show dedicated to exploring grief and life after the death of a loved one.

At times brutally serious, others uproariously funny, the bi-weekly, unscripted podcast touches on a subject that for many is either uncomfortable or downright taboo. Then again, Sauser and Bruening, both Omaha residents, know all about being uncomfortable. Sauser’s husband, Eric, died in February 2021 following a 2019 diagnosis of leukemia. He was only 43. Now 41 and a human resources director for Airlite Plastics, Sauser was left a single mother to three children, ages 11, 9, and 5. 

“I had loved him like no other. I died with him,” she confessed. “We had a very jovial relationship. I spitballed a lot with him.”

In a way, she spitballed his obituary.  

“I wanted to do something special,” Sauser reflected of the humorous obit that said, in part: “Eric hated sad stories, beets, romantic comedies, a snow-packed driveway, and turning off the garage light…We are not positive, but we think the cause of death was either leukemia or more likely being ‘dead sexy.’”

Sauser’s heartfelt ode to Eric went viral and captured the attention of Ross Bruening, who himself had been diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer around the same time as Eric. He died at 38 in May 2021. He told his wife that, when it was his time, he wanted a similarly irreverent riff on his passing. She wrote: “Despite multiple rounds of chemo and several major surgeries, the doctors were unable to determine whether the cause of death was his cancer diagnosis or the outcome of recent Husker football seasons.” 

Like her podcasting partner, Bruening, today 38 and CFO of the Strawhecker Group, was also devastated and left to care for her children, ages 4 and 2, on her own.

A mutual friend and coworker put them in touch, believing they could support one another. When Sauser and Bruening met in July 2021, they sat together and wept. Then Bruening shared something that changed how both would process their husbands’ premature deaths—a podcast.

“I couldn’t talk about my grief, and it really drove me crazy,” she explained. “Ross and I talked about everything. He was my best friend. I lost that, and going through it was one of the hardest things of my life. I felt very alone. I didn’t know anyone else with the same experience.”

Bruening didn’t want other people in like circumstances to feel the same, and a podcast seemed like the right vehicle to bring them together. 

“We all process our grief differently,” she said. “I wanted everyone to know that they’re not alone.”

“When Allie said she just wanted to talk about grief, she didn’t realize that I was foul-mouthed,” joked Sauser, who, after a little trepidation, leaped at the suggestion. 

Although they discussed using one of their basements to record, they ultimately approached Webberized, an Omaha business Margie Sturgeon and Richard Lewis founded as a platform to help people tell and disseminate their stories.

During their first phone call, Sturgeon heard in Bruening's voice that the recent widow had something she desperately needed to share. 

“That meant a lot to me,” Sturgeon said. “I immediately thought it was so important. I lost my own mother to cancer in 2009. Grief is an ongoing, universal process. but people don’t talk about. For example, what it’s like seeing someone’s last moments. Crystal and Allie have created a space where people feel comfortable discussing that.”

“Especially when you lose a spouse, it’s life-altering,” Lewis added. “The way they bring in guests, they have a great rapport…what they are doing on their podcast is helping other people.”

In March 2022, Sauser and Bruening dropped the first episode of the Hot Widows Club Podcast, a name they chose tongue-in-cheek to encapsulate both the difficult subject matter and the humor they brought to it.

Since its debut, the podcast has garnered over 20,000 listens.

“People want to hide us and tell us we’re an anomaly for losing spouses so young,” Sauser said. “I’d say, ‘Bitch, please. We are not an anomaly. There are other beautiful widows and widowers out there who are strong, confident people.’ The most special thing that we’ve found is that the podcast makes those people who felt alone now feel so connected.”

It’s also allowed the recording duo to experience something beyond sorrow and loss.

“Grief isn’t complete sadness; you can find joy,” Sauser said. “I didn’t realize that I didn’t have to just lie in bed for like three or five years and cry and wear a black shawl over my head. We’re broken, but we’re not non-functional.”

Bruening concurred and emphasized that the Hot Widows Club Podcast is about giving back. 

“Podcasting gave me a purpose when I was going through something so traumatic,” she shared. “I struggle; it’s hard. But we’re serving our community. I feel very validated putting my grief out there. This has been really special to me.”

Just as listeners have felt connected to other widows and widowers, so, too, have Sauser and Bruening connected to one another, depending on each other during days good and bad. 

“Allie is my better half and gave me confidence that I never knew I was capable of,” Sauser said. “She is a presence of love and encompassing grace who brings me up when I’m down and carries me. She calls me out on my bullshit—and I call her out on hers.”

Still, both podcasters continue to feel connected to their late husbands.

“I don’t feel Eric has ever left my side,” Sauser said.

“I’ve said the exact same thing,” Bruening softly added. “I hated that Ross died the way he did. I wanted to make something from it—and Crystal and I have.” 

The Hot Widows Club Podcast is available on Spotify, Apple, Google, and other podcasting platforms. For more information, visit

This article originally appeared in the September 2023 issue of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.  

Photo by Bill Sitzmann.


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