There are 16 days until our first book comes out Death and its Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Beautiful Lessons: field notes from The Death Dialogues Project.
Yes, I wrote the book, but I can't help but say "ours" because it holds so much of what people have shared with me throughout my life, be it my mother who was born in 1922, or people I've seen as clients throughout the years, or the many interviews for this project.
Relationships have blossomed through those conversations because we cannot sit with others' stories in such a deep manner without becoming a bit entangled in our love and loss.
Part of the reason I use the term "therapist gone rogue" to describe myself is because of those relationships.
After a 40 year career in human services, much of it in "mental health" where I was programmed and had standards that rightly insisted on professional boundaries and not overly disclosing your own story, all of that has changed with this project.
Also in staging our productions and then the podcast and all-things-this-project and hearing the consistent feedback, I quickly saw how this was an alternative way of profoundly reaching more people than I probably had throughout my entire career, in less than five years.
So yeah, therapist gone rogue makes sense to me. I have the training and professional and life experience to hold those stories, even if they are very raw and filled with trauma. It's a privileged place I now find myself in, to be of service in this way on this alternative platform.
And I love the inclusiveness of it. No us and them.
It's that attitude of segregation that has kept people in the helping professions from being less than effective, because everyone's experience with death is unique so it's almost impossible to teach anything beyond presence. But once you've experience your own deep/traumatic loss, you suddenly see the people you are speaking with from a whole new vantage point.
Your grief sees their grief. Your trauma enables you to better relate to their trauma.
As I write about in the book, there was one trip back to the US where I had lunch with a previous colleague who had experienced multiple deaths and deep grief since we had seen each other last.
She leaned across the table and whispered, "What were we doing before we'd gone through this ourselves? I want to contact all the grieving people I've sat with and say, 'I'm so very sorry, I just didn't know ... ' "
This weekend I'm recording a bonus podcast episode with Kate Burns who is our new podcast co-host which will be our next episode release towards the end of next week. Kate's been busy recording episodes while I've been attending to the other project business and birthing these books.
What a blessing it was for her to come forward and volunteer to help in any way possible. Quite capable, experienced and trained in trauma interviewing, she has blown me away. You can hear the episode that brought us together, where I interviewed her for the podcast, here: