When I first heard about Patricia Pearson’s new book, Opening Heaven’s Door: Investigating Stories of Life, Death, and What Comes After, I thought, why? Isn’t death hard enough to deal with without trying to write about it? In Pearson’s case, she was inspired, motivated, driven, needed (pick your word) to write about death after she lost her father and sister in the span of a year. Just thinking about it makes for emotionally tough memories. But I thought, if she can write about it, I should at the very least be able to ask her about it. The full Q&A isn’t finished. But here is a sample. Thank you to Patricia for making the time.
Q. One thing I’ve often thought about is that almost everyone will experience a death of a loved on. We all have that in common. And yet the experience is still somehow unique. We can sympathize when someone has lost a loved one, but there is still something unique to their experience. I believe no two people grieve the same way. Through the research and writing process, did you learn something about your own grief or the grieving process?
A. I agree with you that grieving is unique, and there is no ‘right way’ to do it, or no agreed upon schedule. Some people take a life time. No one should ever say ‘get over it,’ or fix a time table. Some people never get over grief, really, they just learn to live with it. What I learned from my research is that people who are allowed to feel a continuing bond with the deceased, perhaps through seeing signs of them in birds, butterflies, electric anomalies like a switching light, actually do better with grief. We used to believe that you had to ‘let go,’ but grief therapists no longer think that. A sense that someone is still with you, in spirit, and that you’re not crazy to feel that genuinely helps.
More to come last this week. I’ll provide a link once the interview is published. Meanwhile, Patricia Pearson will be in Ottawa this week for the Ottawa Writers’ Festival. You can catch her at the Knox Presbyterian Church, 120 Lisgar St. at 4 pm on Saturday.