Seeing Death Clearly

From Grief to Spiritual Awakening with Casey Stevens

October 02, 2023 Jill McClennen Season 1 Episode 37
Seeing Death Clearly
From Grief to Spiritual Awakening with Casey Stevens
Seeing Death Clearly +
Help us continue making great content for listeners everywhere.
Starting at $3/month
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

My guest this week is Casey Stevens. We had a heartwarming conversation about her incredible journey. High school was a turning point in her life, marked by a profound loss and her parents played a pivotal role in helping her navigate this grief by openly discussing death and grieving.

This experience, along with her volunteer work with people at the end of life, set her on a path to a career in spiritual psychology. Casey helps others break free from unproductive patterns and undergo radical transformations through conscious awakening.

Casey cherishes the memories of her great-grandmothers, who provided a strong presence during her childhood. When a close friend tragically took her own life in high school, Casey's parents supported her through the grief. They created space for her to process her emotions and involved teachers and friends in commemorating the friend's life.

Her mom's deep bond with her grandmother and her subsequent grief taught Casey the importance of openly sharing emotions. Her mother's willingness to talk about her sadness helped Casey process her own feelings.

During her school years, Casey engaged in community service and had a significant encounter with a hospice for people with HIV/AIDS. This experience had a profound impact, influencing her decision to pursue a career in psychology later in life.

She also shared a unique connection with an individual at Bailey-Boushay House in Seattle during her high school years. Despite his preference for solitude, they formed an extraordinary bond and had meaningful conversations. This experience helped Casey appreciate the value of human connection and the positive impact of giving one's time to help others.

You can find Casey by following the links below.

Support the show

Support the show financially by doing a paid monthly subscription, any amount large or small help to keep the podcast advertisement free.

Subscribe to Seeing Death Clearly and leave a 5-star review if you are enjoying the podcast.

I appreciate the support and it helps get the word out to more people that could benefit from hearing the podcast.

Don’t forget to check out my free workbook Living a Better Life.

You can connect with me on my website, as well as all major social media platforms.

Facebook group End of Life Clarity Circle

[00:00:00] Casey: My heart kind of cracked open at that time and I had more awareness and sensitivity just to the struggles. And so I wanted to share that or make a difference in my own small way that I could at that time in my life. 

[00:00:12] Jill: Welcome back to seeing death clearly. I'm your host, Jill McLennan, a death doula and end of life coach here on my show.

[00:00:19] I have conversations with guests that explore the topics of death. dying, grief, and life itself. My goal is to create a space where you can challenge the ideas you might already have about these subjects. I want to encourage you to open your mind and consider perspectives beyond what you may currently believe to be true.

[00:00:37] This podcast episode is coming out a day late because this weekend I was trying to practice what I preach by spending quality time with my family and celebrating my husband's birthday. I appreciate all of you listening, and I hope you enjoyed this episode with my guest. Casey Stevens. Casey and I discuss her personal journey, which was influenced by a significant loss during her high school years, which her parents played a crucial role in helping her process this grief by their openness around death and dying.

[00:01:05] Casey's volunteer experiences with people at the end of life. is part of what led her to a career in spiritual psychology where she assists others to restructure unproductive patterns and make radical transformations through conscious awakening. Thank you for joining us for this conversation. Welcome to the podcast, Casey I am so happy to have you here. Thank you for coming on. 

[00:01:27] Casey: Oh, I'm so glad to be here, Jill. Thanks for having me. I love what you're doing in the world, and I'm excited to chat more about that too. 

[00:01:34] Jill: Wonderful. Thank you. So let's start us off with some of the basics so that the listener kind of gets an idea of who you are in the world.

[00:01:42] Casey: I live in Seattle, and I was raised in Seattle, and I'm 40. 

[00:01:47] Jill: So when you were growing up, were you like a religious family? Did you have any spiritual beliefs that kind of shaped what you thought about death and dying when you were a child?

[00:01:55] Casey: Not particularly. I grew up, I would call my parents maybe more spiritual.

[00:02:00] When I talked to my grandma, his mother, who's still alive, she's 99. She and my grandfather, they're almost like master gardeners. And so for her, nature is really where she experienced. It's her spirituality and her sense of, and belief in God. So there is definitely a belief. I think that I came by naturally back to my mom's side.

[00:02:20] My, my grandmother, my mom's mom was really spiritual. You'd walk into her door and I have some of her little treasures here now, but she had a Buddha and then she'd have native American drums and she just kind of collected so many different elements from. Life. And so our family really on both sides, I wouldn't say it was religious at all, but there was a spirituality and I think a belief in a higher power.

[00:02:46] And that certainly has nurtured and supported my own just love. And I would also say maybe the most important thing is that my parents really had this freedom, this openness to really let us choose whatever we desired. And when I was in high school, I went to an all girls Catholic high school, even though I wasn't Catholic and we studied theology.

[00:03:04] And of course there was the Catholic influence. I think. Just my parents had an openness. And if we came home and said we were something or into something or curious about something, they would really nurture and foster that. So I was really fortunate in that regard that there wasn't anything oppressive, but really just an openness.

[00:03:20] I've spanned out in my own life and really kind of leaned into my own spirituality and practice that way. My dad, especially, he's always just like curious and wanting to learn and understand more. My mom is a little bit more that way. Cause she had the influence from her mom. 

[00:03:34] Jill: I love that your parents.

[00:03:36] Parented that way. That's what my husband and I are trying to do with our children, which is yeah, right. Like they come home and they'll ask a question. My daughter asked me the other day, was Jesus a real person? And I said, well, you know, I believe he was a real person. And she said, well, was he doing all these things?

[00:03:53] So we had this conversation. I wasn't, this is right. This is wrong. I said, well, where did you hear? Let's talk about it. Let's think about it. And I'm not Christian anymore. My husband was raised atheist, so he never had that background, but I want my kids to feel comfortable first off, talking to me about everything.

[00:04:11] I don't want them to ever come home and say to me, well, what do you think about this? And I try to say to them that's wrong or that's bad thinking back to when I was a child. When you're told that, then you're almost afraid to go to your parents because you're like, well, what if they think I'm bad? What if they think it's wrong?

[00:04:27] Where if you just kind of try to keep it open, it seems like they'll come to us with everything. That's my hope. I don't know. We'll see. 

[00:04:34] Casey: Well, you're onto something right in psychology. There really is cognitive behavioral therapy that talks about exactly that. Right. It's. How do we foster that from a young age, just like identify what somebody is feeling and make them feel safe to come to you by just being attuned to what they're with.

[00:04:51] I love when I hear people talking about sending their kids to Montessori school or just that philosophy is kind of what you're describing, right? It's really like, well, what do you think? Reflecting it so that that can become expansive in there. Encouraged and nourished, right, to discover what their own beliefs are.

[00:05:07] And so it's really wonderful that you're doing that with your kids. And it definitely fosters that safety and that emotional connection that always is there because they can trust it. So I love that you're doing that. 

[00:05:18] Jill: When you were growing up, did you have any experiences with anybody dying that you were close with?

[00:05:24] Or did your family really ever talk about death and dying? 

[00:05:27] Casey: I wouldn't say it was a common topic. But it wasn't anything that we shied away from in incidences when it happened in life, I think kind of developmentally timeline wise, there certainly were losses. So I was really fortunate. One of my grandmothers is still alive, but all of my grandparents were lived until I was in my thirties.

[00:05:46] And so it was only kind of in that segment of time in my life that I lost any like direct grandparents. Great grandparents were also part of our life. And so, um, I remember those losses specifically great, great grandmothers. I'm really, I'm trying to think on probably both of them on my mom's side, like her, yeah, on both sides, on my mom's side that were just very close and they lived long lives, but I would have been a child really when they were passing and my mom had a real, especially her mom's.

[00:06:19] Mother. So it would be my grand mirror. She died. I think I was 10 or 12 when that happened. And my mom really grieved. She kind of had helped and been this whole, almost like a second mother to my mom. And so, and she just was this wonderful homemaker and just a nurturing, loving spirit and really provided that presence for my mom that she didn't have a lot in her own childhood.

[00:06:42] So she was so. Deeply close to her grand near. And when she died, my mom really went into a deep grieving, probably a depression that lasted for a long time, but she wasn't, didn't hide it. She would talk about it and there were just things that she would process through that, you know, like her sadness would come and then she would just kind of share what that was and what was going on for her, the context of her relationship had just been so much more meaningful.

[00:07:07] So I think it was just a tremendous loss. And the same thing, I remember her other grandmother, so her father's. Mother, right? Also, I remember her dying and my mom grieving and just the whole being supportive of all of that. It was just very normal. My mom would talk about it. My family would talk about it.

[00:07:22] She would grieve. She would share what she was feeling. And I think that was just really a healthy approach. There wasn't an overemphasis or anything like that, but definitely attending to and a presence that we all went through. Then when I was in high school, I had maybe the first most significant loss for me, a friend of mine.

[00:07:40] took her own life and it was deeply sad time and tremendous grief that I hadn't quite processed in that way and couldn't. And my parents just were there. I remember taking time away from school and really processing and them doing what they needed to do to kind of share that with. Teachers and friends and let them know this is what was happening and going to do certain things that were celebrating that person's life, having special memories.

[00:08:08] And my parents just did a really nice job of honoring and making those things, especially a sudden and shocking loss like that. When you're so young, they just. Helped to normalize it and hold space for us to process our feelings. That certainly was something that affected our whole entire family and our extended family and everything.

[00:08:25] This was somebody who was quite close. That was kind of how we process that. More loss kind of came, but I could look back and reflect on my own experience of that. And I had really wonderful parents, supportive parents. They really made space for those just emotional. Processes and it was okay to emote and be there.

[00:08:44] And they created a really beautiful container to have those feelings or to talk about that, or to talk about whatever we were feeling or what had happened or what was going on or where this person was. And there was the appropriate amount of space that, that happened there. 

[00:09:00] Jill: So it sounds like it was a healthy grieving experience.

[00:09:03] Giving that space is really something I don't hear that often, which is unfortunate. We don't want to see it. We don't want to talk about it. Right. Losing somebody at a teenage age, especially from suicide, is really impactful to a person's life. 

[00:09:22] Casey: Yeah, it really was. I processed, I remember kind of in my own way.

[00:09:26] And again, it was such a shock and such a period of grief. And I feel like having that support really helped to get through that. I know I became really sensitive at that time. I think that really actually, I think I always have had a propensity to be a helper or want to help people. And both my parents are really that way.

[00:09:46] I think something kind of lit up in me just. Understanding people's suffering, because I had been pretty sheltered from that. I hadn't really had that kind of suffering on my own life that would lead to anything as drastic as that I really was pretty fortunate. And so when put in that position, definitely all the support that was needed came through and I think it did.

[00:10:08] It just turned on a light in me that I was more conscientious and aware of just. The words people used or the ways that would joke or ways in which there can be maybe a lack of sensitivity around the struggles and emotional struggles in particular, my heart really opened up even more during that time.

[00:10:24] I couldn't have known exactly what that was, but I ended up. Even in school, just studying, becoming part of a peer mentorship group or being driven in, in these directions that I just noticed for me, I'm sure my parents were encouraging me, but it just really felt like, wow, this feels like I'm making a difference, whether it was my volunteerism that I did.

[00:10:42] It was like, what are the things that matter? How do you take care and help people? Right. And I think I was a junior and was working in the oncology department. We had to do community service anyway, so you could do anything, but a girlfriend and I, from start School worked in the oncology department and then I did peer mentorship, which is kind of like working with other people.

[00:11:00] That was kind of the opening for me that really made me feel like, how can I have a positive influence? Maybe the best way to describe it is yeah, just my heart kind of cracked open at that time and I had more awareness and sensitivity just to the struggles. And so I wanted to share that or make a difference in my own small way that I could at that.

[00:11:19] Time in my life. And so of course that evolved in many different ways. I've finally kind of plunked into that purpose in my life, but it was really like, yeah, how can you be with people and suffering we don't even know about? And how can we be an encouraging force and just more awareness to not even needing to personally experience some of those hardships, but by being in proximity, you can't not have a, um, huge heart for that, I think.

[00:11:44] So I was fortunate. 

[00:11:45] Jill: And the fact that you ended up. Working or volunteering in an oncology department as a teenager, that again, that's a lot of suffering that you'll see when you're working with people that are going through treatments that are life or death. Like the people are afraid and I understand why.

[00:12:05] So being around that must have also really helped to kind of shape this desire to. Comfort and help. And what do you do now? Like, how did that kind of shape the career path that you went down? 

[00:12:19] Casey: I think it all informed it to be sure. I yeah. And relative to my age, I think I did the best that I could with that, but it was just being more present with these conditions and the conditions that people live with, meaning the sadness, the condition of grief, the process of dying.

[00:12:35] Sometimes you're in the oncology ward and people are leaving and they're going home and they're doing well, but many times they're not. I remember even from that time in my life again, so I went to a Catholic all girls high school and there was a certain element of just community service that we needed to do, and they would have this day where people from different organizations would come and kind of.

[00:12:56] Say, Hey, do you want to volunteer at our space from that time? I ended up doing the oncology thing, but I remembered that somebody from our, it's kind of a hospice center for people with HIV AIDS had common pitch and I always stuck with me. And so I went on and I had a career working in totally different field.

[00:13:12] I didn't go straight into psychology. And so when I had another tragedy in my life of the young, kind of shocking death, very close in proximity to me, it was kind of like my world was turned upside down. And that's really when I. Was set the course from that moment on, I went back to school and I got my degree and wanted to work in this field to help.

[00:13:33] But again, it was like this other moment where that cracked me open and was like, okay, like, how can you contribute to the world and what can you do? So I remembered, I thought, okay, I'm going to just do everything. Right. So I started doing things at the children's hospital and I did fundraising and I did hands on things.

[00:13:47] I needed to figure out where I belonged in the world and what resonated with me. And so it was all just volunteerism. And I remembered this person coming and. I'm talking back when I was in high school, it's called Bailey with Shea house here in Seattle and it's actually known throughout the country.

[00:14:02] People will come. And so people go there not only just for HIV AIDS, that's primarily what they do, but then when people weren't dying, people with Lou Gehrig's or cancer, it's like it's a hospice hospital. It is technically a hospital setting, but they've made it very homey. So I went back and I ended up volunteering there for 10 years.

[00:14:19] When I was in school and I would just like needed my life to be more meaningful and to connect with people in that way. I think I've always been drawn to that exposure and these experiences that have been really significant and important to me. 

[00:14:34] Jill: And that also must've been really impactful because you're really working on a regular basis, connecting with people that are going to die.

[00:14:43] I mean, it's the same work. That any of us do when we work with end of life care, but a lot of us that are working in end of life care This is our goal is to work with people but volunteering to do that work to connect with somebody I find I get really deep connections with people when they're at this place of They kind of stop And I don't want to say they stop caring about what people think, but it's like a lot of the barriers that people put up in a normal when you see them at the grocery store, like softball games, that kind of stuff.

[00:15:16] When somebody is facing death, a lot of that wall comes down and you get to really connect with people on a deep level. And I love that you. Did that that's beautiful. 

[00:15:26] Casey: I loved it. This particular place, which is an amazing organization, they do med management and they help a lot of people who are on the streets or in addiction.

[00:15:34] Or so there's like an outpatient treatment downstairs and it's all for people with HIV. And then upstairs is where the hospice is. And it could be any combination. It could be somebody dying of HIV AIDS. And so I kind of did a combination where I worked in both departments and then. My last stint there, it was probably about for five years.

[00:15:49] I worked with this client in particular. I would visit different people and do lots of different things, but I kind of fell into this. There was to your point about that. I was really kind of heartbroken when this happened. And that's when I paused my work there because I want to say it was about five years.

[00:16:04] There was a client, his name was Armand and he was kind of a reclusive. He was. Failing for multiple reasons, but he actually lived for several years. And so I would just once a week, I would go and I would spend my Wednesdays with him and he didn't have any family. He had a lot of barriers, right? He wouldn't just visit with anybody.

[00:16:22] So I was really like, we had this suite and I would go and spend Wednesdays with him at some point. I'd take him somewhere. We watch a show or we'd talk about what he had done the week past. And we always went out to lunch or coffee or both. And he eventually, of course. Past, but that relationship, I mean, not only was I there for him, like we really developed a true friendship.

[00:16:45] I just learned so much from him. He had been a practicing Buddhist and would share his life stories and that he would want to know about what was going on, who I was dating or what was happening. Right. It was this bond that will always. Be sacred to me. I got to be part of that when we had his ashes and spread those ashes.

[00:17:06] And he left me really, truly one of my most treasured possessions. I think some of my favorite things I own in this earth have been things that are sentimental to me that belong to somebody that I loved and. Whether the value was high or not, usually they're like some spiritual symbol. And they're just the things that I love the most.

[00:17:23] And I still have, he left me this African drum that he had. He was in an African drumming group. He left me that and he didn't have much to his name whatsoever, but he wanted to be sure that I had that. There's just something so special about nurturing that relationship and really showing up for someone in that time.

[00:17:41] And I really had to take a pause because of my last several years being there was just. Solely, mostly I would just come and spend the day with him. And I, it was a huge heartbreak to lose that. And so I needed to kind of step back for a while. There is this barrier that is just down and you can just really know somebody deeply, intimately know them in a way that really taught me a lot.

[00:18:03] Jill: That's a beautiful story. And part of me feels like that was such a gift for him that maybe if there is a God or whatever you want to call it, that like you were sent there to be with him. Cause if not, he would have been alone. 

[00:18:17] Casey: Yeah, well, he would have. And not only that, I mean, there were lots of amazing volunteers that were, but he was kind of a recluse, like he just was, but we were just such a match.

[00:18:26] It was so wonderful that we really could probably, right. Probably from a soul. Family that we just could chat and talk about anything. And he could have had lots of people visit him volunteer wise or done activities. And he didn't, he just wanted to stay in his room and be alone. But I know as soon as I left, he was already looking forward to coming back.

[00:18:47] It was like the absolute, the highlight of his week. And that mattered to me, right? And, and likewise, I mean, I really, really enjoyed our visits and had just a kick of a time with him. I had a kick of a time with him all the time. I learned so much from him in so many levels of my being. 

[00:19:04] Jill: The idea of the soulmates too, not that I think anybody really understands, but I think that a lot of people think like soulmate, that's my romantic partner that I get along with and that I really love, but I do feel like I've met people in my life.

[00:19:17] That I've met at the most random kind of places and the connection there was instant where you're just like, Oh, we, we were supposed to be together. It doesn't mean we're supposed to be together forever. Doesn't mean it's all of my life or all of their life, but that there's those times and you're like, no, there's something.

[00:19:36] About this connection that we needed together. We fulfilled some type of a, whether you want to call it a soul contract or whatever for each other. 

[00:19:46] Casey: Yeah. I believe that. I think soulmates come in all shapes and forms and ages and just being open to that. I can make friends. From any walk of life, any age, like none of it matters.

[00:19:58] If you really kind of tune in to what that connection is, there's always a purpose in it, right? And sometimes there's no resonance there whatsoever. And those are not your soulmates. Those aren't your tribe of people, but really being open to that, there's something really beautiful that can come from it.

[00:20:13] So I've been fortunate to have that experience so many times, right? I can feel it with clients, a beautiful way that our souls can dance in this life. 

[00:20:22] Jill: Yeah, we don't get that every day either that like, I don't know, it's not even that it's a connection. It's like just this like feeling where you're like, I can be myself and we can have a conversation that's not shallow, you get into the deeper parts, you can be vulnerable, and you can have those on a train.

[00:20:41] You could meet somebody on a train and spend some time with them and have just these amazing conversations and then you get off the train and you never see them ever again. But that doesn't mean that those conversations didn't completely impact your life and almost in some ways alter the direction of your life.

[00:20:58] Casey: So true, yeah, we never know and we know, yeah, be open to it. Be open to it. I always am open to that. I know it's been a beautiful way of walking in this world for me. 

[00:21:08] Jill: It's hard to do sometimes, at least for me, it can be hard to do sometimes, but I try more and more to just show up as like. My real self and then this way I can make those connections where for a lot of my life when some of this is legitimately that I'm from New Jersey, we just head down.

[00:21:26] I'm going somewhere. Nobody better get in my way. I just very focused. But now I try to observe what's going on and really watch the people around me. Sometimes Especially when I was younger and this is something I'm learning from my daughter really well is that if she sees somebody and she wants to compliment you or say something about what you're wearing or your smile, she'll just do it.

[00:21:52] She'll just walk up to people and be like, I love your shirt. So in one minute, we were just walking through the store and she just had on a t shirt, but my daughter liked it. And she said, you really made my day. I was having such a bad day and I was feeling so bad about myself and you really made my day.

[00:22:09] And I was like, that's amazing. Right. And I try to encourage her to do that. When I noticed that she was doing it, I was like, you're really making people smile. You're making them happy. And so now I'll see somebody and I'll think, wow, that hat's amazing. And I'm almost at the point where I could say it.

[00:22:28] Part of me still is like, I can't say that. They're going to think I'm weird. Like, why would I say that to somebody? But I'm starting to now more and more because it does really completely change somebody's day. Sometime that you are noticing and you're complimenting them and connecting and smiling at them and.

[00:22:49] So I'm trying really hard to do it, but there's still that wall up that I have that I'm trying to work on. 

[00:22:55] Casey: You know, well, we put that wall up over time. Right. There was a time that probably you didn't have that. And how beautiful that your daughter can just be so unfiltered in that way. And it's not just that it's making somebody else's day better.

[00:23:07] That's kind of the bonus, but it's that she's being her true self just. Letting that fly and nothing has gotten in the way to filter that or leave a residue so that she wouldn't be who she is. And we have to, most of us as adults, I don't know many of us who have just been unfiltered in that way. We have to deprogram, right?

[00:23:25] And decondition some of these conditions. I know it's, even if you're making somebody's moment, right? And just kind of sharing what you're with, with them, like how. Beautiful. Yeah. I have never received a compliment that I haven't felt just tickled by, right. Even if however long it lasts. And so, so yeah, take a page out of your daughter's book.

[00:23:47] Jill: That's really wonderful. I have had a trying relationship with my daughter and a lot of it is my wounding that there's definitely something. With mothers and daughters that like, we've really poke each other's wounding. She's really good at doing that. A couple of years ago, I was talking with a Buddhist nun and she said to me, your daughter is going to be your biggest teacher, like in life, we all meet teachers and your daughter's going to be your biggest teacher.

[00:24:12] And I was like, you're right. Am I going to survive it though? But that was going on. probably four or five years ago and through a lot of healing on my own and a lot of like work that we've done together. It's true though, like in a lot of ways, some of it has been forcing me to face some of my own stuff, but some of it's also really inspired me to be more like her.

[00:24:35] Because she is so carefree in a lot of ways. And she just really shows up in the world in a way that I maybe did when I was younger, but eventually the walls came up. Yeah. And it is. Yeah. 

[00:24:50] Casey: I'm so proud of you for kind of going through that. And I really think this can be the mother wounds to part of the mother wound that can be common, not just in your relationship, but I think there's a subconscious thing that can happen when we see our, your daughter, for instance.

[00:25:05] I don't know if this resonates or not, but when you see her able to be free in herself, because probably you have nurtured an environment that she can still hold onto that. But if you lost that along the way, we can almost have this unconscious envy, right? Of What she has access to do that then we're on some way subliminally reflecting on what we don't have or what we didn't have or the ways in which we didn't get to stay free in that way.

[00:25:31] And so we can almost take on this envy or jealousy or something that sometimes can look like sabotage, but how wonderful that you're just. Holding that container. Right. So that she can continue to be in that flow, but also how do you reclaim those parts rather than it doesn't have to be either, or right.

[00:25:48] It can be and both. And your work is really to reclaim that freedom, maybe that you lost. 

[00:25:54] Jill: Yeah. And for the most part, I've the spots where I would typically have envy. I can recognize it for what it is. Like my daughter the other day said, Oh, I have the best daddy in the whole world. And I was like, you're right.

[00:26:07] You do. I did that on purpose. I married a guy that I knew was going to be a good dad and I don't have a very good relationship with my father. And so. There is times when sometimes I'll observe the two of them and I'll be like, Oh God, that hurts. But then I'm like, but also this is amazing. Like, this is amazing that she has what I didn't have kind of because we are talking about life, but also about death.

[00:26:36] And when I look back on my life, hopefully when I'm on my deathbed and I look back on my life. I can really already even at 44 look back 10 years and 20 years and like really see that like points where I've consciously noticed something that I'm doing that I'm like, Nope, don't want to do that anymore.

[00:26:57] And I've like, tried to change it. And I'm hoping that by the time I make it to my deathbed. Hopefully I'll be very old. Hopefully I'll be in my nineties, but I don't know for sure. So that's why every day I'm trying to work towards being okay with every interaction that I have. I'm not always perfect in my interaction with my daughter, but I try to make sure that when I'm not perfect, that I apologize and that we have a conversation and that.

[00:27:22] If it was today that I die, that she won't ever think like, Oh, you know, mommy was mad at me because we don't know when it's going to happen. We can't control that part. And I think sometimes a lot of our challenges in life really come from that lack of control when it comes over the fact that we don't know when we're going to die.

[00:27:43] So we don't want to think about it. We're like, well, if I don't think about it, that means it's not going to happen, but it's not really that it works that way. And I think a lot of my walls that I have put up were also from the times when I feared for my life, because I was like, Oh, this is possibly not going to end well for me.

[00:28:02] And so I got very guarded and I learned to protect myself. from letting people in, like, letting them get close to me physically or emotionally. But I don't want to live life like that anymore, right? It's just not how I want to be. And so I've spent a lot of time and I continue to spend a lot of time breaking down those walls, connecting with people, and hopefully, encouraging that in others as well.

[00:28:27] Casey: I'm curious as you talk about that, just in your whole, this is your work and it's fascinating to me. How do you consciously hold this idea of life and death and this imminent experience that we will all have as humans? How consciously are you holding that at all times and all exchanges? Like, is that the reference Point.

[00:28:47] In other words, for you that you're referring to, this is how I want to make meaning out of my life or on my death. Like, are you consciously reflecting on that destination sometime in the hopefully very distant future and making your decisions based on that in the context of your aliveness or potential?

[00:29:06] Jill: That's a  great question. Yes, I do very consciously. Partially because of my work, because I'm reading about it constantly, I'm talking about it constantly, like, I can't not think about it. But also, I am Buddhist, and one of the practices in Buddhism, and what gets talked about fairly often in Buddhism, is like, remembering that we're gonna die.

[00:29:27] Like, consciously meditating on that fact. And so, I do regularly I don't obsess about it. I'm not fearing it necessarily. It's not like, I'm like, Oh my gosh, I'm going to die. Oh no. It's more like, okay, I'm going to die one day. And so if that was today, what would be important to me? And it has made me change the way that I show up in the world.

[00:29:54] I used to work a lot, like a lot, a lot. It was part of how I found my worth. I was good the job that I'm transitioning out of. And so I enjoyed it. And so now. There's times when, you know, my family will say, well, let's go do this thing. And I'll be like, I have meetings and I have this and I have that. And then I'm like, I'm going to cancel them because you know what, if I died tomorrow or if one of them died tomorrow and I knew that I didn't go do this thing because I had a meeting, how would that feel?

[00:30:24] That wouldn't feel very good. I would probably never forgive myself. And so I have actively. changed the way that I interact with my family in the sense of also, I have a lot more patience for them because I know that there's mothers whose Children have died and that when my daughter is screaming at me because she does, there's people that would give anything to have their child.

[00:30:50] They're screaming at them. Yeah. Yeah. And it genuinely has helped me just change the way that I interact with the world by consciously thinking about my death. So yes, I do actually sometimes think to myself every day, like if today was the day, what would I want to do with it? And it doesn't mean that I always.

[00:31:09] do what I would want to do. You know, there's still a lot of anxiety for me, again, around working where I'm like, I have all this stuff. I have to do it, but I'm getting better. Right. It's always a practice. I'm always working on getting better. 

[00:31:22] Casey: Yeah. Beautiful. How do you talk to your children then? About that.

[00:31:27] And do you contextualize that for them with yourself or help them to kind of discern what that meaning would be for them? Or I don't know how old they are, but I'm curious. 

[00:31:38] Jill: My daughter is nine and my son is 12. They do of course hear about death and dying probably than most children do, right? We have conversations about it.

[00:31:47] I don't necessarily say to them, Oh, well, I'm trying to change the way that I do things because I'm thinking about death and dying so much. But the other day my daughter said to me, she wanted me to do something. She said, but you're always working. And I was like, you know what? You're right. And I am trying to not do this as much.

[00:32:04] I'm working on this. I'm trying to show up more. I am having that conversation about the work that I'm doing essentially because of it. But we do talk about, I want to say like we talk about death all the time because we really don't, but also, again, it's just, they know that I'm doing a podcast, so they'll hear me editing my podcast.

[00:32:23] They can hear me recording them. So they're hearing it. It's always in their, the back of their mind. One of the things too, is we, we dog sit, so we don't have dogs that are our own. We'll have dogs that we watch. On a regular basis over a period of a few years. So we've had like five or six of those dogs have died.

[00:32:41] When it's time to have that conversation with the kids, we sit together and we all cry together because we love our dogs. Even though they're not ours, they become part of our family. And we really try to go through that grieving process. And then the kids will ask sometimes questions like, well, what happens after we die?

[00:32:58] I'm like, I don't know. I don't know. What do you think? Let's talk about it. We try to be really honest with our kids. About everything, whether it's sex, whether it's drugs, my old boss committed suicide and my son kind of overheard me talking about that. He had died and he saw what he did die from and my initial reaction was to like, not say it because I was like, I don't want to even plant the seed in his head.

[00:33:21] But then I'm like, Joe, he's. 12. He's exposed to the world. Like if anything, having this conversation with him, honestly, about my friend and my boss, who I loved, and I was really grieving when it happened, was going to be healthier than just being like, Oh, he just died. Suddenly, so we did have the conversation now, even if he would have asked how I would have never told him because I feel like that's not age appropriate, but I wasn't also going to lie about how he died.

[00:33:52] I'm finding that balance of like, how much to share with children, even about my work and about. My personal work that I'm doing as well my professional work.

[00:34:01] Casey: Yeah, there is something right. I mean, relative to what they can understand, but I think that transparency is something that's really, really healthy.

[00:34:09] And when you're honest and real with them, right. It, it helps them, whatever the topic is, it helps them to trust that you're somebody that they can really be honest and real. And again, we don't have to put up all these filters. But again, whatever developmentally is age appropriate that they can process.

[00:34:25] It's interesting. I was just actually right before a session with you. I had a session with a guy in his forties who his partner's best friend and business partner died. Like she was 42 suddenly. And so I was saying, well, how are your girls taking that? And I want to say his girls are like. Five and eight.

[00:34:45] And so he said, well, we told them that this happened and so and so died and who is a very close family friend and their friend's mother was who this was. So it was very enmeshed. Right. And there wasn't really this total understanding. We were just processing through all of that. Just like, oh, okay, well, how are they, how are you doing?

[00:35:02] And how are they doing? And how are you talking about all of this? And he said, yeah, it's really interesting. We told them that they passed. This person passed and. It's like they can say it, but there's not really the understanding. And I think it was their first time, right? Like they didn't quite understand what that meant.

[00:35:19] And so not that they went into details, but yeah, share it with them. And then when they can get into more understanding of what that means or holding space for them to have their feelings about that, as that becomes more. Something that they can integrate into their world. Yeah. It's interesting. There isn't always the awareness or the ability to hold that or process it, which is a good thing as well.

[00:35:39] Jill: It must be difficult for people that are not used to talking about death in general, to have that conversation with children because children. I find with a lot of subjects, they are much more comfortable talking about it than we are. I've had guests on the podcast that their specialty, whatever their job has to do with like sex and sexuality.

[00:35:59] And I'm like, now that I struggle with talking to my kids, I do it. I'm trying my best. Part of me just gets so uncomfortable, but death, I'm like, Oh, this is nothing. This is fine. I can handle this. It's important. Like you said, I think just having those conversations with kids helps them grow up and feel more comfortable in the world and better able to handle anything that comes at them versus ideas that they get now, especially.

[00:36:27] with the access that people have to everybody's opinions on the internet. It's not always that they're actual facts. Some of the stuff that I will hear my kids listening to on YouTube, I'm like, Oh, what, what is that? I'm like, no, no, no. I'm not going to shelter them from it and be like, no, you absolutely can't listen to that.

[00:36:47] But I really want them to question everything that they hear. Not just taking it as an, Oh, well, because this person said it, that means it's the truth. And that includes me, which is hard sometimes when my son now will even be like, you probably don't know this, but what is this? And I'm like, you're right.

[00:37:05] Actually, I don't know what that is. But we can look it up together and we can find out together. 

[00:37:08] Casey: I've appreciated hearing your perspective and knowing that you're working in the world in this way. There's so many dynamics and elements. I think when there is right, whether it's children or what, how do we make meaning of our life and become more in the present and what is our purpose in this life and what happens after this life and how do we leave the people?

[00:37:31] Right. That we, there's just. So many elements that are so important and in so many ways to your point, right? This can be really taboo stuff and people really need space to process and grieve and have deeper understanding and have space that's held for them. It just seems like important work when you can really hold space and sit with anyone who is going through a grief and a loss and that they're not having their needs met and in many other places, because there'll be insensitivities or people aren't.

[00:37:59] Don't say the right thing or whatever that is. And so it's so important to have this container, right? Where people can process loss. Um, if you've lost important people, which I presume you have, you can't get this far in life without having had that happen, but just grief, I think just continues to come in these waves and it can last for a really long time, um, better, and it can be all consuming.

[00:38:23] And so, yeah, it's, how do we be with people in this life? But also through their loss. And so it's important work. I'm glad that you're doing. That's really what we need is there's nothing we can do. There's no way that we can change those circumstances, but we can be with people and really give them the space to have the dignity of their own process and in their grief.

[00:38:45] Jill: We definitely can't change it. We can't not have grief if we're alive, it's just going to be what happens. And as you said, like the waves of grief that we think we're over it, and then it comes again and. The best thing to do is when you have those ways of grief is to really like feel it and honor it.

[00:39:02] And our culture doesn't allow us that space. You know, you're basically given a timeline of how long you're allowed to grieve and it doesn't work that way.

[00:39:12] Casey: So it really doesn't. I mentioned that I had had a significant loss. It's a decade ago and I still will get slammed with the grief from it. It just comes and it might be something just totally random that spurs it or something really important about giving yourself that space, just a process.

[00:39:28] And, and it's okay. All of that even just is the demonstration of how much it mattered. That person's life mattered and that connection and everything that we were talking about with. That's really what it's telling me is how much love there was and that more processing and our grief can still show up.

[00:39:45] It might soften over time, but it still lives in us. Those losses. It's okay. 

[00:39:50] Jill: Absolutely. Make it like this shameful thing, but it's okay to grieve what we've lost. It can feel painful, yes, but the more that we allow ourselves to experience it and kind of not shove it down, the less painful it will feel over time.

[00:40:09] Even if we still get those waves of grief. Right. They do lessen, like you said, they soften. 

[00:40:15] Casey: To honor that soul in that life. When we are stuffing. Those emotions and we're compartmentalizing them or whatever we're doing. We're not fully expressing them. There's a way in which we're not really fully honoring that life and what that person meant to us.

[00:40:29] So let it rip, be with it, let it rip. It's really all that you can do. 

[00:40:34] Jill: And find the people that you can feel comfortable doing that around. Absolutely. It does make people uncomfortable, unfortunately. And then that means that we shut it down because we're trained to make people around this feel comfortable.

[00:40:47] Right. There are people out there that there's groups, there's people out there that you can feel comfortable expressing it and hopefully not feel judgment and be able to move your way through your grief in your own time, in your own way. We need more of that in the world. 

[00:41:03] Casey: We do. And you bring up an important point, which I think can happen around lots of subjects, but grief is a profound element of that.

[00:41:10] In society, we are just conditioned, even if we're good, loving souls that are trying our best, right? Like we want to manage or manipulate or control other people's emotions because we'll feel better. The best advice that any of us can really absorb is just. Allow people the dignity of their own process.

[00:41:31] If we're uncomfortable that someone's uncomfortable, then we are doing them a disservice. We are shutting off whatever natural healing process they could be in. If we can't just hold space, then we need to heal and do our own processing of that. But we are doing them a disservice. If we're trying to say, Oh, there's so many little, you know, Sayings that I think can just be normalized in society of just like, Oh, don't cry.

[00:41:55] You're okay. Or just like stopping that grieving, that emotional process that other people have. And it's all so that we are comfortable and really allowing ourselves to be comfortable with the uncomfortable, especially when people are grieving, it's like, let, just let them have their process. That's what they need.

[00:42:14] And you trying to. Make it better, quote unquote, better, right. By managing it in some way or making them feel better. That's not really your job. Your job isn't to make them feel better. It's to be with them while they're feeling awful. Yeah. 

[00:42:28] Jill: And you can always sit and not say anything, which is difficult. I know that is difficult, but we try to like, fill that, like, 

[00:42:36] Casey: yeah, we fill the space.

[00:42:38] We try to make it better. And again, well meaning and it's not necessarily in service. To the grieving person, to the grief process, to the healing, but just delays that, right. Or it shames it in some subliminal way, or it makes implicit that it would just be more convenient if you stopped feeling this way or whatever.

[00:42:56] And so really being more aware of that so that people can really allow the space and we can really process and not be stuck in unprocessed grief. 

[00:43:06] Jill: Brings up a good point too, that. If we are feeling uncomfortable because somebody else is grieving, why are we feeling uncomfortable, right? Ask ourselves why.

[00:43:15] And we can also get support to help support somebody else better. Like if for some reason my husband has a significant loss in his life. I can get support to help support him. It's not like we're at this alone. Most of us have not done this well in the past. We haven't had good examples of how to grieve.

[00:43:35] We have not done it well ourselves. So if you are supporting somebody that's grieving, you can also find help to help you support them better. There is resources out there, especially now more and more. If we grieved healthier, I think a lot of us would actually feel better because we don't grieve anything well, whether it's the death of somebody, the death of a dog, the ending of relationships, right?

[00:43:58] We don't grieve well. Absolutely. 

[00:44:00] Casey: Yeah. Yeah. Beautiful. Well, yeah, this is awesome. Thank you. Chatting with you.

[00:44:05] Jill: Thank you so much. Thank you for listening to this episode of seeing death clearly. My guest next week is Tony Lynch. In 2022, Tony founded the Global Grief Network, which is a community of grief workers, mental health practitioners, and coaches from across the world designed to bring awareness, education, and support to each other.

[00:44:26] If you enjoyed this episode, please share it with a friend or family member who might. Your support in spreading the podcast is greatly appreciated. Please consider subscribing on your favorite podcast platform and leaving a 5 star review. Your positive feedback helps recommend the podcast to others.

[00:44:42] The podcast also offers a paid subscription feature that allows you to financially support the show. Your contribution will help keep the podcast advertisement free. Whether your donation is large or small, every amount. is valuable. I sincerely appreciate all of you for listening to the show and supporting me in any way you can.

[00:44:59] You can find a link in the show notes to subscribe to the paid monthly subscription as well as a link to my Venmo if you prefer to make a one time contribution. Thank you, and I look forward to seeing you in next week's episode of Seeing Death Clearly.

About Casey
Death and grief in childhood
Significant loss in her teen years
Life changing connection with someone that was dying
Mother wound
Next weeks guest