Dr. Terri Daniel is extraordinary. She is a hospice and hospital-trained clinical chaplain certified in death, dying and bereavement by the Association of Death Education and Counseling, and in trauma support by the International Association of Trauma Professionals. Her work is acclaimed by physicians, hospice workers, grief counselors and clergy for its pinpoint clarity on the process of dying and grieving. Terri is also the Founder of The Afterlife Conference, a transformative experience that helps people learn to perceive loss and grief in a positive new way. The 2020 Afterlife Conference is taking place in Chicago from June 4 – 7.
IN THIS EPISODE, YOU’LL HEAR ABOUT THINGS LIKE:
- Continuing Education credits can be obtained by attending a special full day workshop at The Afterlife Conference.
- The remarkable new perspectives and enlightened professional insights people will experience at The Afterlife Conference.
- The depth of the pain felt from grief is NOT equal to the depth of love you have for your deceased loved one.
- The sacred story string that can release the emotions of complicated grief.
SOME QUESTIONS IRENE ASKS TERRI:
- What is a beautiful death?
- How do you define complicated grief?
- Terri has a special discount to the Afterlife Conference in Chicago on June 4-7 just for our listeners – tune in to grab it at the end!
Listen to the podcast here
Dr. Terri Daniel: Hospice And Hospital-Trained Clinical Chaplain Certified In Death, Dying And Bereavement By The Association Of Death Education And Counseling
Welcome once again to the show, whose mission is to educate, enlighten, and provide healing choices through interviews with grief and trauma specialists, healers, mediums, and people who have inspiring stories to share. Make sure to follow us and like us on social @IreneSWeinberg on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
Our truly extraordinary guest is Dr. Terri Daniel, who is a hospice and hospital-trained clinical chaplain, certified in Death, Dying, and Bereavement by the Association of Death Education and Counseling, and in trauma support by the International Association of Trauma Professionals. The focus of Terri’s work is to assist dying and grieving individuals to discover a more spiritually and socially spacious understanding of death, grief, and beyond.
Terri conducts workshops throughout the United States to help the dying and the bereaved focus on inner transformation rather than external events. Her work is acclaimed by physicians, hospice workers, grief counselors, and clergy for its pinpoint clarity on the process of dying and grieving. Terri has a BA in Religious Studies from Mercyhurst University and an MA in Pastoral Care from Fordham University. He’s a Doctor of Ministry and pastoral care and counseling from the San Francisco Theological Seminary.
Terri, welcome to the show. I’m looking forward to what will surely be a very special conversation, especially pertaining to the 10th Annual Afterlife Conference, which is taking place in Chicago. I can personally attest to how beneficial to the grieving process the Afterlife Conference is as I was an exhibitor at the Afterlife Conference in 2016 in Norfolk, Virginia. I saw for myself how transformative it was for many of the attendees. Let’s begin our interview with this question. Terri, please tell us about your experience with grief and how it led to your work as an educator, a counselor, and the Founder of the Afterlife Conference, which has served as an educational, social, and spiritual gathering place for those seeking evidence of life after death.
I was always a metaphysically-minded person. I was a very spiritual, mystical child. I read The Tibetan Book of the Dead when I was nineteen, and it resonated with me more than anything I had ever heard about death, God, or anything in my cultural niche. I was always into this stuff way before my major loss experience. Fast forward, my son was ten years old. He was diagnosed with a rare metabolic disorder and given 5 to 10 years to live.
I was 48 or something at the time. He died at sixteen, so I had these six years to experience caregiving and watching him decline. He went from being a perfectly normal kid to being in total care in a wheelchair. He couldn’t talk. He couldn’t move his body. I had to feed him. He wore diapers and worse. I had that time to prepare for his death and also to prepare him. One of the things I learned was that kids in America at that age knew nothing about death. None of us do. We never see a dead person. We don’t grow up with it like we used to in the old days or rural communities. I realized that his only concept of death is what he saw on TV, in movies, and in video games, which is violence and screaming.
I didn’t want him to think it was going to be like that. I started reading him books and different things that I found about the Buddhist and Native American views of death to get him off of that thinking. Thankfully, he didn’t have the heaven and hell thing because we didn’t believe in that at all. I was educating him on different views of death. I realize now that he was the one educating me. He died when he was sixteen. He had a beautiful death.
What do you call a beautiful death, Terri?
He was at home. He had no pain. I’ve been working in hospice ever since for the last years. I’ve seen many people die. He was the first person I ever saw die. There was no fear. There was no pain. He was basically out of his body the whole time. When you sit with a dying person and watch them die, at a certain point, they’re in what we call active dying. To the untrained eye, it would appear that they are unconscious and they’re laying there, eyes closed, mouth open. What’s happening metaphysically is their soul is out of their body at that point. They are in no pain. They don’t feel anything, though they are still aware of what’s around them. I knew this.
I knew not to disturb him, not to go up and shake him and go, “Danny, mommy’s here.” You don’t do that at that stage. I don’t know how I knew that, but I did. That’s a beautiful death. More and more people are dying that way now instead of in hospitals with interventions. Thirty minutes after he died, I was lying there holding his body. He came to me as clear as a bell and started talking to me. My first book, A Swan in Heaven, starts on that day. That’s where the book starts. He told me incredible things just about the process of dying, where he was, and what our whole life plan was together. This was in 2006. I had never read a book by a mother whose child had died.
I started receiving all this stuff. I’d be driving in my car and I’d feel him talking to me. I bought a little hand tape recorder and I would start talking into the tape recorder. I’d record it. I’d then come home and I’d type it up. I ended up with hundreds of pages. That’s how the first two books came to be. I had no idea there were other books like that on the market until after I wrote my first book. I was researching how to market it.
That’s when I found, as far as I know, the only other three books that existed like that at the time, which were Sandy Goodman’s book, Susan Ward’s book, and Perrier’s book, all talking to their sons on the other side. That was my big loss experience. I was also into the metaphysics of dying. After he died, the experience of being with his soul as it started to separate from the body intrigued me. I said, “I want to keep doing this.” and I thought maybe I should go to nursing school, “How do I get to do this more?” I then discovered hospice volunteering. That’s how I got started with that. That was only the beginning.
Were you always able to hear, or did it kick in after Daniel died? Were you always able to get messages like that?
Not really. Getting messages like that was never part of my life. I knew toward the end of his life that I would be getting messages from him because, in the last three years of his life, he couldn’t talk. We started communicating telepathically, which is not such a big deal. When you have a baby, your baby can’t talk, but you know what your baby needs. I was also working with a teacher at the time who was an amazing channeler. I had readings with her, and she was bringing in messages about Danny and saying to me, “You have this work to do together.” When he dies, it’s not going to stop there. You’re going to keep going, so I was expecting it.
How did all of this lead to you founding the Afterlife Conference?
That was about four years later. I had already written two books at that point. You’ve probably heard of a group called The Compassionate Friends. It’s an organization for parents whose children have died. They were having their conference in Portland, Oregon, where I lived. I was like, “I’m going to go speak at that conference.” I was already starting to do some speaking and workshops.
I sent them my little pitch. I said, “I have this book and I’ve got messages from my child.” They wrote me the nastiest letter back and said, “We do not support such things. We do not allow any presentations on this sort of thing. Nothing spiritual. People who think they’re hearing messages from their dead kids that only upset our other parents who are not hearing the messages.” It was just nasty and brutal. I found out later that they had rejected many other authors who also were teaching this, like Bill Guggenheim, for instance, who was the leader of this whole thing. They wouldn’t let him talk there. They wouldn’t let Evan Alexander, Sandy Goodman, or anybody talk there.
I got so pissed off about that. I said, “I’m going to start my own conference.” This was in 2010. I got in touch with Bill Guggenheim, Sandy Goodman, and all these people. I said, “Let’s put on a show. Let’s start our own conference because the only other conference that exists like this isn’t going to listen to us.” That’s how it started. We each put in $200 for some seed money. It was nothing. The conference was successful. I was able to pay everybody back their $200. It took off from there.
That’s fantastic. It’s been growing and growing exponentially.
It doesn’t really grow like that. It grows and shrinks. 2014 was our biggest year. We had 450 people at the conference. Something happened. I changed it at that point. What was also happening for me during these years of the conference is I learned pretty quickly that, as a hospice volunteer, I was not allowed to talk to the patients or their families about their spiritual experiences, their visions, their messages, or their death.
That’s the best part.
As a volunteer, you’re not allowed to. You have to be trained to do that. You can’t just walk in and talk to somebody about that. Even though you think you know, you don’t know what that person’s experience and you don’t know what they’re Catholic or what they are. You can’t just walk in. There is always a proper way to do that. I wanted to do that. I went back to school. I got a Religious Studies degree. I went and trained as a chaplain because, as a chaplain, we’re trained to have those conversations with people without projecting our theology, judging theirs, or leading them in any particular direction. There is a skill to it.
Throughout these whole years at the Afterlife Conference, I’ve been in school the whole time. I was getting more academic and more interested in research and things like that. By 2014, I wanted to move the conference a little more into the mainstream. I didn’t want it just to be full of mediums, crystal healers, and Reiki people. I wanted some of that, but I did not want that to be the main thing. I dialed that down and started bringing in afterlife researchers from universities, religious scholars, counselors, and more mainstream stuff. I lost half my audience using that. We shrunk, but now we’re building it back up because I want hospice nurses and doctors to attend. I don’t want to preach to the choir.
That’s wonderful that you’re educating them.
That’s the whole idea.
That’s fantastic. Tell me about some of the people that you’re going to have at this conference. Can you give our readers an example of healing that’s taken place during some of these conferences so that they know as a person coming to learn it all what happens?
I’ll start with the mediums because I know that’s what your readers are interested in. We do have wonderful mediums. We have Suzane Northrop every year. We have Thomas John now almost every year. On Sunday morning, they do the big, general gallery session. There’s no way to describe how good evidential reading is healing. It’s beyond description.
I can attest to that because when my husband died, John Edward was the first person who channeled Saul. It was life-changing for me. I’ve had Thomas John on my show. Everyone, you can check him out. You can check out Suzane Northrop. They’re amazing.
I remember at the conference when Suzane was doing a massive audience reading. She said, “I see two horses running across the back of the room, a black horse and a white horse. Do they belong to anybody?” This woman stood up sobbing and saying, “Those are mine. They died in a barn fire. Months ago, my two horses, a black one and a white one.” That’s the stuff that we’ve seen mediums do. Suzane, Thomas, and John Edward are at the top of the heap. There are not many.
I have a funny Suzane Northrop story too. I went to a seance with Suzane many years ago when she was not as famous as she is now. She’s sitting, and she says to a woman at the seance, “I’m getting male energy. It feels like a husband’s energy. Why is he surrounded by five gerbils?” It turned out the man had five pet gerbils. That was amazing to me.
That’s a big piece of the healing that happens. We now have grief-sharing sessions, which we didn’t have before. Instead of putting a bunch of grievers into a room together, I have them facilitated by a professional. That’s important. The other thing I’ve brought in that’s very important to me is multicultural perspectives on death in the afterlife. Here in this woo-woo scene that we’re in, we talk about near-death experiences, the tunnel of light, the angels, and the loved ones. That is only our cultural perspective. If you’re a Hindu, you’re not going to see Jesus. If you’re a Christian, you’re not going to see Shiva. If you’re an African Zulu, you’re going to see something completely different because near-death experiences and out-of-body experiences are completely culturally subjective.
It’s very dangerous teaching to assume that everybody gets a tunnel of light or everybody gets a life review. We don’t know this. These are just the stories that we have from people in our culture. I started looking into the history of other cultures. There’s a wonderful book called A Traveler’s Guide to the Afterlife by Mark Mirabello. We had him at the conference in 2017. There’s another guy, Gregory Shushan, who wrote a very academic book on Near-Death Experience in Indigenous Religions.
It's very dangerous teaching to assume that everybody gets a tunnel of light. Everybody gets a life review. We don't know this. The afterlife is very multicultural. It's not just what we think it is. Click To Tweet
For example, the Zulu tribe believes that we can reincarnate as animals, but only a chief can become a lion. This is so farfetched from anything we would think because we don’t have chiefs and we don’t have lions. We have to consider that we’re creating doctrine even within our own new age anti-doctrine structure. I am careful about that. When somebody says what happens in a near-death experience, I’m going to say anything.
It depends on the person who’s having it.
It depends on the person and the cultural influences. We have the group IANDS and they’ve got all these wonderful stories, but they’re all basically from White people in America. One of the things I try to teach is we need to expand this because the afterlife is very multicultural. It’s not just what we think it is.
People are dying all over the world. It’s not just what we experience. For our readers, IANDS is the International Association for Near-Death Studies. It’s a wonderful organization because it supports people who have had these experiences. I’m one of them and I’ve spoken to them also. This is wonderful that we’re enlightening all of you and giving you some insights about this.
Terri, what can our readers look forward to? You’ve spoken about the fact they’re going to read about multicultural perspectives about death. They’re going to have mediums communicating with deceased loved ones. There are going to be workshops to help grievers. Is there anything else or other ways you’d like to expound upon what they’re going to get from going and having been there? I’m glad to know I was there in 2016 when you started to change it.
Were you there twice?
I was there in 2016.
I remember you because you had bagels at your table.
I did. My book is called They Serve Bagels in Heaven.
I remember walking by and eating your bagels.
I also lent you a couple of essential oils because you were doing a shaman.
That’s right. Thank you for reminding me.
That’s another thing that we have. We’re not just about grief and mediumship. We like having this multicultural perspective we’ve had since the beginning. I have some of my personal teachers who are shamans. We bring them in every year. They teach about how to do rituals and ceremonies to facilitate travel between dimensions and also to facilitate grief healing. Rituals and ceremonies are hugely important. We use it for everything for struggling with grief. We have a big closing ceremony on Sunday at the end of the conference. That’s a beautiful piece of it. At the conference in 2020, we got Robert Moss, who is well-known as a dream expert. He’s teaching a workshop on communicating with the other side through dreams. We’re able to give continuing education credits now for nurses, social workers, and psychologists.
Tell us about that because I’m sure that there are nurses, psychologists, and people who are reading and going, “I can go to this amazing conference and get credits.” There may be people interested in that.
This is something I’ve been working on for years and I finally got it. This was part of the thing about moving it more into the mainstream because you can’t get CCE credits for reading with a medium. It has to be academically sound. It was the first year we were able to give CCE credits. Now, we have 24 CE hours. I’m not exactly sure. We’ve got, for instance, a full-day workshop by Jerrigrace Lyons, who founded the home funeral movement.
It’s a full day of training in death midwifery, and you get a certificate, and death doula training. I’ve got a Buddhist scholar talking about Buddhist rituals for transferring consciousness out of the body into the cosmos at death. I’ve got a couple of things on complicated grief. We’ve got somebody who does sound healing, sound meditations for grief, and also sound work for helping the dying separate from their body.
Can you define for our readers what complicated grief is? I happen to know what that is, but I’m sure a lot of people are going, “What the heck is complicated grief?”
A lot of therapists don’t understand this, which is why people don’t understand because therapists aren’t trained in this unless they’re trained in grief. Grief is normal. All the things that you feel when you’re grieving are exactly what’s supposed to happen when you have a loss. There’s nothing that needs to be treated. You don’t need therapy.
Unfortunately, it just is what it is and you have to go through it. That sounds pretty harsh. Counseling is useful because one of the things that are important in the process is that you tell your story. Your friends and loved ones are not comfortable listening to you talk about your loss. They’re going to get tired of it after a while. That’s what a counselor or a group is good for. A group is good because you’ll have people who’ve had similar experiences and don’t bond with that.
That stuff only takes you so far. There is a path that grief healing follows. This has nothing to do with stages of grief. That’s been thrown out as a viable theory a long time ago. There are certain things that you do in the process of healing. One of them is, for example, recognizing loss. Let’s say you lost a loved one in war, missing in action, and you never saw a body. You never get to fully recognize the loss or let’s say that you’re just in denial. I’ve heard so many people, especially bereaved parents, say, “I will never accept that my child was murdered,” even though they know the child was murdered. There’s that lack of acceptance and lack of recognition. That’s one of the things that can get you into complicated grief, which I’ll define in a minute.
There’s a whole bunch of stuff. What complicated grief is basically is that you’re not following a normal trajectory of healing. It’s like if you get the flu and somehow you get an infection. Your flu has complications, or you’ve heard someone has a surgery and there were complications because the surgery didn’t go as planned. Something complicated the outcome or complicated the healing process. That’s what complicated grief is.
Normal grief shouldn’t progress in a certain way. After a period of time, and I’m not even going to name that period of time because it’s different for everybody, but let’s say three years after your husband dies, you’re still having symptoms of clinical depression. You’re suicidal. You can’t work. You can’t function. You’re eating too much, drinking too much, sleeping too much. That’s not healthy. That’s not normal. That’s complicated grief.
Would you say that sometimes it’s exacerbated by the fact that there are issues that happen? For instance, if a kid was abandoned in childhood and then lost someone later on, would that bring up those feelings of abandonment and make that a more complicated grief?
Yes, it would bring up those feelings of abandonment, but it wouldn’t necessarily make it complicated grief. There are a lot of things that contribute to complicated grief, and it’s a recipe. I can’t just say that this will make you have complicated grief. It starts out with each person’s ability to be resilient. If you’re a person, for example, who is good at making decisions and acting on them and is as good at accepting disappointments and moving on, then you’re going to be less prone to complicated grief, regardless of your abandonments and all the things that you have.
If you’re a person who crumbles easily, then the death of your husband or your child is going to be different for you than somebody who has a more innate ability to be resilient. It’s a lot of stuff to explain in a question like this, but there are factors that can contribute to complications in the grief-healing process. For example, one of the tasks that we have to do to heal is to be able to talk about our loved ones. When you gather together with the family at Thanksgiving, you want to talk about him. You want to say, “Remember Saul used to make stuff and it was so good? Didn’t we have fun with Saul when he was here?”
You need to be able to do that. Your family probably doesn’t want to do that because it makes them uncomfortable. If it was a death that was socially unacceptable like a drug overdose, suicide, or a gay person who died from AIDS and your family and your social group are uncomfortable with it, they’re not going to let you have that reminiscing and mentioning the person they’re bringing them in. That can contribute to complicated grief.
It’s like a dam. You’ve got all those feelings, and you can’t express them. Where does it go?
That’s true. You can express it to your counselor or your support group, but there’s a lot of other stuff. Let’s say you have religious beliefs. Let’s say your loved one died by suicide and you believe that they’re going to go to hell for that, or they are in hell. That’s going to complicate your grief process because you’re spending your energy worrying about that instead of doing the steps of healing. There are all kinds of stuff. You can read about it in my new book, which is called Grief and God: When Religion Does More Harm Than Healing. It talks a lot about complicated grief in relation to religious beliefs. Look it up on the internet. There’s plenty.
The book is on my reading list. I want to read it. Is there anything else you’d like to say about this book and any of the others? I know you touched on the first book that you wrote, but you wrote two others also. You’ve written four.
I’ve got four now, which amazed me. The second one was in 2010. That was four years after my son died. At that point, I was working in hospice and getting training in chaplainship. My son was guiding me through all that. In that book, I was talking about the practical experience of being around death and grief, but my son was piping in every once in a while and adding his perspective. The next book after that, which was in 2014, was Turning the Corner on Grief Street. It was more clinical and less spiritual. The fourth book became, because at that point I was in a doctoral program, so it was very academic. The books and the Afterlife Conference and everything moved along with me in my personal journey.
What you do also lends a lot of credence to what you say because of your education and how grounded you are. A lot of people will say to me that they respond to what I do because I’m not, as they call wavy-wavy gravy woo-woo. I’m a more grounded person also. With your education and who you are, that’s very helpful to people to structure the understanding and the knowledge. To think that if someone goes to the Afterlife Conference, someone like you who is not only enlightened but so educated about all of the facets of this field, it makes it even more fascinating and more beneficial to them to be a part of this.
That’s why I did it. I was out there doing workshops and writing my first book or my second book. I realized that I wanted to be taken seriously by the hospices and the different churches or places where I could speak and teach. I realized that if I didn’t have that alphabet soup after my name, I wasn’t going to be able to get into the doors that I wanted to get into. It started when I wanted to become a hospice chaplain. You can’t just walk into a hospice and say, “I’m a medium. Let me help with your dead people. I’m a person who’s had a lot of grief and a big loss. I call myself a grief coach. I’d like to come and talk to your families.”
You can’t do that. They’re not going to let you in the door. If you want to have access to the clinical world, you have to have the right credentials. This is something that I’m a stickler on now. I remember at one conference, we had a panel called Conscious Dying in Clinical Settings. This woman asked a question. I don’t know what she was, a medium I guess, or a spiritual intuitive or something. She was saying to us, “How can I get a job doing this? I should be in hospice grief groups helping people.” We all laughed and said, “You can go to school, get a degree, and become a psychologist, and then you can get that job.” They’re just not going to let you in that door without credentials. I knew that. That’s why I worked so hard at this.
It’s very admirable what you’ve accomplished. It’s amazing. It’s wonderful. I compliment you on that, and you’re helping so many people. If someone wants to get help from Dr. Terri Daniel, do you do individual healing sessions for people? Do you employ certain modalities? What would that look like? Do you do most of your work through the conference?
I do most of my work in workshops. My website is SpiritualityAndGrief.com, and I have a workshop called Grief as a Mystical Journey. I am now doing it online. It just started not so long ago, doing the online version. I’ve been doing this workshop for a few years now. I do private sessions by phone. It’s not what I focus on, but the way that I work with people is I believe in giving you tools. You can call me up and have a phone session with me. What I’m going to do is give you a ceremony to do, a meditation to do, a book to read, and a process to do to release the stuck grief from your body and, symbolically, give it up or release it.
It doesn’t mean detaching from it, but I believe in ceremonies, processes, and tools to do that. For example, here’s a simple one I do all the time. If you have a lot of guilt, let’s say your teenager died by suicide. The guilt over that is indescribable with any suicide. You’re struggling. You have complicated grief. You’re not living your life. You’re not healthy. You’re sinking into this anger and this pain all the time. A simple process that I would give you in a workshop or a private session is something that I call the sacred story string. We take a piece of string or yarn about 3 feet long and wrap it into a little ball. While we’re wrapping it up into a little ball, we tell this story of, in this case, all our anger or how angry we are.
“I’m angry at God for letting this happen. I’m angry at my loved one for killing himself. How can he do this to me?” All the stuff that you’re spewing all day, spew it into this little piece of string and tie it in the ball. What we do is we go outside and we untie it, and we hang that string in a tree. It stays there for the wind, the rain, and the sun to carry those thoughts out away to God, to the universe, whatever you want to call it. The symbolic act of removing it from your chest, from your mind, putting it into the string, and giving it to the elements promotes healing. We’ve created a representational object and we’ve moved it out of our body into a separate space so it’s not crippling us and killing us like that. Those are the kinds of things that I do. These are shamanic practices, and they’re incredibly healing.
I believe that. If you hold on to all that complicated emotion, then there’s no surprise because there’s a body-mind connection. There’s no surprise that they may get to you physically in some way later on also. By releasing that, it’s a form of self-love also.
Very much so. People say, “You can release it by exercise. Go running.” It’s not the same. You have to put it into a symbolic representation and move that object from point A to point B to represent the movement of the energy. One of the reasons that people hold onto their pain is because there are so many myths about grief that are taught by grief groups that are not facilitated by people who have any training or are untrained. One of the things that drive me crazy about, for example, the Compassionate Friends, is I have so many people who come to me and say, “It makes me feel worse to be there because all people are doing is telling their story over and over again. A new person comes in and then tells their story, then all the old people retell their stories, and you stay stuck in your story.”
There are no tools to help you move somewhere else. One of the things I hear from those folks all the time is this belief that they are taught that says, “The depth of the pain you feel is equal to the depth of the love you have for your child.” There are so many things wrong with that because what that tells you is if you let your pain lessen, then your love is going to lessen along with it. They believe that they have to stay in pain in order to be loyal to their dead person. It doesn’t have to be a child.
That makes absolutely no sense. You’ve given yourself a death sentence.
Yes, exactly. What you should be teaching them is your pain is not exponentially connected to your love. Of course, you have pain because you have love, but now you have to separate those two things. The love is okay. It’s going to stay there. Nothing’s ever going to happen to that. Put it over there, and now let’s look at your pain. They’re not stuck together with Velcro. You can peel them apart and work on your pain. Your love will not diminish.
Most people have had such a hard time letting go of anything and giving themselves permission to move past something. This is an important point that you’re making. I do think a lot of people believe that. “How can I let go of this pain? How can I let go of my child or letting go of whatever’s happened?” I had an experience myself when I came out with my book. I had some references to Ancient Israel and different things that were going on. I went to a rabbi and asked him. I talked to him about these things. The religious aspect and everything, he said, “I can’t talk about this with you. You’re a woman. We only go through rabbis who are 40 years old and over.”
I had another experience where I went to a group for grief healing. I was doing pretty well, and the woman there said to me, “You’re doing pretty well. Maybe we can have the women here call you and talk about their stories.” It was just what you’re saying, it was going to be a regurgitation of all their stories and I’m struggling to move forward from mine. She’s assigning me the responsibility to help them. I couldn’t leave quickly enough. It was very hurtful and destructive. I know you, of all people, are going to know what the importance of healing is to share with our readers. What would you say that that is? Why should we all want to try to heal versus staying in your pain, staying in your swamp?
I don’t even know why that would even be a question that anybody would need the answer to. People staying in their swamp think that they’re healing, but they don’t realize that they’re not healing. I’ll tell you a story. It’s in my new book. I met a man at The Compassionate Friends of an event there, and his son had been murdered. He said to me, “No matter where I go, I want everyone in the world to know that my son was murdered. When I go to the grocery store and the clerk checks me out and says, ‘Have a nice day, sir,’ I say, ‘I never have a nice day. My son was murdered six years ago,’ and the poor little clerk says, ‘I’m so sorry,’ and he says, ‘You’ll never understand until it happens to your child.’”
He told me the story, and I said to him, “I understand why you’re that angry, but I also know that you have options. You don’t have to feel that way all the time.” He said, “I don’t want options. This is how I want to feel.” This man thinks he’s healed. This is what healing looks like to him because this is what he wants to say and this is where he’s comfortable. I think it’s because we never had anybody give him any tools. Talk about complicated grief. That’s the ultimate example of it. There was nothing I could do to help him right there on the spot. In his mind, he was perfectly fine.
Do you know what I’m thinking? I feel sorry for all the intimate people he’s associated with in his world because he’s constantly beating them up with his story.
He probably doesn’t have any intimate people. He’s chasing them all away. I’m sure everybody’s trying to help him, but this is where he’s decided to be. A lot of people stay in that place. I run a complicated grief Facebook group, and a lot of these people will say, “I’ve had complicated grief for five years,” and I want to say why. I know why. It’s because they’re not ready to let go. They think if they let go of that, they’re going to lose something valuable. What they mostly think they’re going to lose is their memories, their connection with their loved one, and their love. What they don’t realize is that that stuff will get better when they heal. They’re not going to lose anything.
I experienced when I was deep in my grief that I couldn’t recall certain memories. The more I healed, the more I was able to embrace and have them.
That’s right. The more at peace and healed you are, the more the communications come from. One of the first things I learned with my son in my first book, and I was going through a divorce at the time and all kinds of stuff, was when I was angry like that, I got no connection to spirit. One of the things my son said, “This whole process of me communicating with you now is to teach you how to calm yourself down and how to open your heart and heal yourself. Look at the reward you get for it. You get communication. You get to feel the presence of the divine. This is the payoff. This is the quid pro quo.” I say that in every interview. I try to get that in. This is the answer to your question of why heal. If you heal, your heart is open and you can connect to spirit better.
All of our readers want to come to the Afterlife Conference. Tell them how they can get more information, how they can sign up, and what they can do. Let’s start there.
Go to AfterlifeConference.com. It is very simple. Read through the website and see what’s on there. When you go to the registration page, and if you bring a friend, we have a special discount group rate where every person in your group gets $100 off, which is a good deal. That’s how we encourage you to bring friends. That’s it. Everything you need to know is right there.
Do you have any special offers for our readers?
I do. Thank you for reminding me. I forgot to tell you that. I set up a discount code for your audience. I believe it’s GRB, which stands for Grief and Rebirth. When you go to register, if you’re not doing the group rate with two more people and it’s an individual, if you put in the promo code GRB, you get $50 off. That’s a pretty good deal.
Terri, what is your tip for finding joy in life?
Not to be too attached to the concept of joy. That would be my tip. One of the things that I have learned is that joy and pain exist side by side. You can’t have one without the other. The more you resist pain, do not lean into it, and are not willing to work with it, the less joy you may have. There’s a wonderful teacher named Pema Chödrön, a Buddhist nun, who writes about this, “Joy and pain are like opposite sides of a battery, positive and negative. You have to have both sides in order to have a complete connection.”
Even though we were talking before about not being too attached to your pain, you can also not be too attached to your joy. You have to allow the ebb and flow of that energy. One of the big pieces of grief theory that we have now is something called the Dual Process Model, where you alternate between focusing on loss and focusing on healing. You go back and forth between those 2 focuses constantly 10 times a day, 3 times a year, whatever. It’s that fluctuating and that movement that keeps the energy flowing. That would be my answer about joy.
That’s a wonderful answer because I know people who will say, “I’m afraid to let myself feel joy because I know that there’s going to be pain.” I say, “If you know there’s going to be pain, let the joy in. That’s all part of life.”
Pain isn’t always that bad. It’s all about leaning into the pain and working with it rather than being so afraid of it. It’s going to be there no matter what. One of the things that annoys me about the Law of Attraction Movement based on what people read in that book, The Secret, which I think is one of the most horrible spiritual untruths ever told, is that you can use your intention and positive thinking to create a world where you have no pain and where you have everything you want, money, wealth, health, and love. If you have pain, if something doesn’t work, if you’re poor, if you’re abandoned by your spouse, if you’re sick, then somehow you’re not manifesting properly. You’re doing something wrong.
If you’re doing it right, according to this idea of the Law of Attraction, then you should be having nothing but wonderful things. That’s a terrible idea because it doesn’t work that way. There is something called the Law of Attraction, and it works just the opposite. You attract what your soul needs to fulfill its plan on earth, what you came here to learn. If your child dies like mine did, that is something that I brought in. My consciousness brought that in because it’s part of my path. It’s part of my curriculum and my agenda, and his too. You have to have both. You cannot create an abundant, perfect, beautiful life with your thoughts. A lot of people might hate me for that.
My attitude is if you need to attract a perfect life, you should cross over to the other side because they have none of these problems. This is school. We come here to learn all of these lessons that we’re here to learn.
That’s exactly right. We don’t come here for unconditional love. We had that before we got here.
We had that before. Terri, I think one day we’re going to have another interview and there will be a lot more that you could share and teach all of us because this has been wonderful. Especially, I want to encourage all of our readers to get on that site and look into the Afterlife Conference. It is truly worthwhile for many different reasons, depending on what your need is. If you want those continuing education credits, you’re grieving, or you want to learn more, it’s a wonderful thing. You will also meet many wonderful people, which could be life-changing for you because it’s also a social experience when you’re getting camaraderie with a lot of people who are also seekers and want to improve their lives and change their perspectives about different things. It’s very uplifting.
From my heart, Terri, I want to thank you for the inspiring work you’re doing because you are helping so many people to perceive loss and grief in a positive new way. We need that. I thank you. In the spirit of learning more about grief and loss and aspiring healing choices, here’s a reminder that the show is all about this. We’re on it, everyone.
Terri is now part of a tremendous healing community, and we are all here to show you that there are different paths that you do not have to suffer. Thank you for following and liking us on social at @IreneSWeinberg on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Thanks again, Terri. Thank you to all our readers for joining us. As I often like to say, to be continued, many blessings, and bye for now.
- Terri Daniel’s Website
- Terri Daniel’s books: A Swan in Heaven, Grief and God: When Religion Does More Harm Than Healing, and Turning the Corner on Grief Street
- The Tibetan Book of the Dead referenced in this episode
- Mark Mirabello’s A Traveler’s Guide to the Afterlife referenced in this episode
- Gregory Shushan’s Near-Death Experience in Indigenous Religions referenced in this episode
- International Association for Near-Death Studies
- Terri Daniel’s Spirituality and Grief Website