Transcript: Episode 1

This tran­script has been edit­ed for clar­i­ty. There may be dif­fer­ences between the audio and this tran­script.

John Moir: 0:01
Wel­come to our first episode of The Urban Grief Shamans. For Patri­cia and myself, our jour­ney to this point has been fun, cre­ative, spir­it-dri­ven and excit­ing as we learn new skills of micro­phones, record­ing and, our favourite, delv­ing deep­er into our under­stand­ing of grief, spir­its and mean­ing, those walk­ing on a path of spir­i­tu­al growth. One of those enlight­ened souls is our first guest to help us explore the rela­tion­ships between griev­ing and cre­ativ­i­ty. Kathy Glea­son is the host and, along with her daugh­ter, Stephanie, cre­at­ed a suc­cess­ful week­ly pod­cast called As I Live and Grieve. I urge you to sub­scribe to Kathy’s pod­cast if you haven’t already. It is quite amaz­ing and very infor­ma­tive. I have Kathy to blame for the inspi­ra­tion to start our own pod­cast. Kathy has become my men­tor and a friend. Before we join her in con­ver­sa­tion, I want to share this per­spec­tive with you. Think about the Renais­sance and that cool peri­od in Euro­pean his­to­ry when art and cul­ture blos­somed. It came after the Mid­dle Ages, which was chaot­ic, with plagues, wars and social unrest. Dur­ing the Renais­sance, folks like Leonar­do da Vin­ci and Michelan­ge­lo cre­at­ed works that still excite us today. They basi­cal­ly turned their era’s tough times and col­lec­tive heartache into amaz­ing art, jump­ing ahead a bit. In the ear­ly 1800s, dur­ing the Roman­tic era, poets like William Woodsworth and John Keats were all about explor­ing feel­ings of loss, long­ing and inner strug­gles. In their poems, peo­ple real­ly con­nect­ed with their emo­tion­al depth and how they cap­tured human expe­ri­ences, show­ing that grief can be a pow­er­ful source of inspi­ra­tion. Now, in the world of music, we’ve got the blues. This genre popped up in the ear­ly 1900s in the Unit­ed States and was root­ed in the hard­ships and sor­rows faced by African Amer­i­cans. Artists like Robert John­son and Bet­sy Smith poured their pain into their music, cre­at­ing some­thing that deeply touched many souls. So that’s the end of our his­to­ry les­son for today, and let’s join Kathy and myself in con­ver­sa­tion. I’m just delight­ed to be here with you.

Kathy Glea­son: 3:50
Me too. I have been look­ing for­ward to this ever since you invit­ed me.

John Moir: 3:54
I’m glad to hear this. You’ve been a men­tor since Patri­cia and I were guests on your show. I live in grief, and you’ve encour­aged us to leap into pod­cast­ing.

Kathy Glea­son: 4:06
I think you have a lot of not just expe­ri­ence but infor­ma­tion as well from a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive. That, I think, real­ly, to me any­way, makes so much sense and fills in some of those gaps from the the­o­log­i­cal back­ground. As a child grow­ing up in the Epis­co­pal Church, I had all those ques­tions I have been won­der­ing about. You know, gosh, what about spir­its and every­thing like that? How does that all fit in? But many of the things that you and Patri­cia said just filled in those gaps for me, and I think it like­ly will for oth­ers as well. And there’s there are a lot of pod­casts out there that deal with grief and death and even the­ol­o­gy and every­thing, but I have not seen any with your per­spec­tive of shaman­ism. I have not seen that. So I think it will be a well received pod­cast.

John Moir: 5:05
Thank you. So, in this episode, we want to talk about grief and cre­ativ­i­ty. You heard when I was grow­ing up that our best works of art and lit­er­a­ture take place dur­ing times of upheaval, so I was won­der­ing if you could share the begin­ning of your sto­ry with us.

Kathy Glea­son: 5:23
The begin­ning of my sto­ry, I guess, would be that I was pret­ty much brought up in a Nor­man Rock­well-type fam­i­ly. The big dif­fer­ence and this was in the 50s, when I was a very young child, was that in my fam­i­ly, both my par­ents worked. My moth­er was the ele­men­tary school’s prin­ci­pal sec­re­tary right across the street from our house. So I grew up with both par­ents work­ing and wound up. Since there were no day­care cen­ters like that, I often wound up across the street at school with my moth­er. Either attend­ing an extra class, like kinder­garten, was a half day, I went for a full day just because it was free, and then after school, as I grew up and every­thing, I would be in my moth­er’s office, and I would help her, and so that was kind of my back­ground. But in our fam­i­ly, my par­ents were also extreme­ly pro­tec­tive, and one of the things they pro­tect­ed me from, of course, was any of the neg­a­tive emo­tions or expe­ri­ences we might encounter. I remem­ber when each of my grand­par­ents died, this would be my moth­er’s par­ents. They died with­in a month of each oth­er, and I have vague rec­ol­lec­tions of curiosi­ties about what had hap­pened and want­i­ng to go to the funer­al home, but my par­ents said no, no, you stay home. A funer­al home is not a place for chil­dren. So I did, and it was­n’t until I was an adult that I even ven­tured near a funer­al home; odd­ly enough, that was on Hal­loween, when I was on a UNICEF dri­ve, and we hap­pened to take our lit­tle coin banks and go up to the door of a funer­al home because the lights were on. That was the clos­est I got to a funer­al home up to that point, and as I look back at that now, I think that has to account some­what for the fear, and I mean lit­er­al fear, I had of the word death as well as the con­cept, so that became a huge obsta­cle as I grew, to try to cross that bar­ri­er. It was not easy, and in truth, I nev­er real­ly became com­fort­able even say­ing the word death until I was a grown, mar­ried woman and my moth­er died, even to the death of my father and infant son, and then my moth­er. Final­ly. After that, I final­ly start­ed to become com­fort­able with that con­cept. It’s quite com­mon in our cul­ture, though, isn’t it, to not?

John Moir: 8:14
speak of grief or death, and nobody wants to die. in our cul­ture, we want to be beau­ti­ful and young for­ev­er and even have deep emo­tions. I grew up in a time when men did­n’t cry. I can remem­ber my moth­er, while I was at my wed­ding, want­ed to tell my step­dad I loved him and to thank him for being there for me. I love him. I was start­ing to get emo­tion­al, and I remem­ber my mom look­ing at me, just shak­ing her head in the no ges­ture to cry. So we get a lot of our prim­ing when we’re young.

Kathy Glea­son: 8:42
We do, and you know, fol­low­ing in the foot­steps of my par­ents with my own two daugh­ters as a sin­gle mom, I remem­ber hav­ing to attend a funer­al, and Stephanie said can I come along? And I said, no, you don’t need to go, you stay home. She even remarked in one of our pod­cast episodes that it was­n’t until she was almost 20 that she would go to call­ing hours at a funer­al home, and she had no idea what to expect. She was ter­ri­fied to go because she did­n’t know what she would see or how she should act or any­thing. And then I real­ized that I had done the same thing my par­ents had, by pro­tect­ing her. Stephanie learned, and when my hus­band Tom died, she, of course, the entire time he was ill, had been talk­ing to her two boys, and both boys were at call­ing hours. They were at the funer­al home. And even the youngest, who at the time was in sixth grade, did a pre­sen­ta­tion that was their annu­al project before grad­u­at­ing ele­men­tary school. He did his annu­al project on Agent Orange and how it impact­ed Tom’s death and stood up there, tears stream­ing down his face, words stuck in his throat, but he stood up there in front of par­ents and teach­ers, fac­ul­ty admin­is­tra­tion and talked it out, and I was just. I was awestruck.

John Moir: 10:13
You must have been very proud. R, you said you nev­er under­stood what grief was about.

Kathy Glea­son: 10:20
I did­n’t. I don’t think I even spoke the word. For years and years, I had no need of it because it did­n’t hap­pen, or at least I did­n’t attribute it as hap­pen­ing. And again, a late adult dis­cov­ery is that I don’t believe that I ever griev­ed the death of my father or my infant son. I did­n’t know, that’s what I was feel­ing, and at that time, you just sucked it up and moved, you know, and three days lat­er, back to work and just a nor­mal day. They were just gone, peri­od.

John Moir: 10:58
Yeah, so do you remem­ber when it was that you felt that you hit that point in your life where your grief became bot­tom­less while con­sum­ing?

Kathy Glea­son: 11:11
I do. Actu­al­ly, it was­n’t until after my hus­band, Tom, died and we had known for eight months that the can­cer that he had was not cur­able I watched him decline. By that time, I had been work­ing in hos­pice a lit­tle bit, so I was aware of some of the signs when a per­son is active­ly dying, the mod­el­ling of the skin and the legs and every­thing, and how it will kind of creep up the body, and I was see­ing all those signs in Tom. And then I went in, of course, the day that I knew he was going to die that day because he had that gur­gling breath­ing, that kind of death rat­tle they call it, and I was ready for it. But it did­n’t impact me, it was­n’t real­ly, for I want to say a cou­ple of weeks after we had the cel­e­bra­tion of his life and I was at home and real­ized that not only had I not had a show­er in days and not changed my clothes, but I also had not left the house, that even to Let the dogs out I would open the door, hook their chain on them and let them out. I had­n’t even gone out on the deck of my house. And it hit me then, and I thought, if I don’t do some­thing, I’m going to live the rest of my life like this, and I don’t want to live like this for­ev­er. And at that point, I did what I had always turned to music and books. And I put music on. There was prob­a­bly a lit­tle som­bre, but it was what I need­ed at the time, and it released some emo­tions. I sobbed and sobbed for hours. Then I grabbed a book that a friend of mine had sent me and start­ed read­ing it. It was poet­ry and did­n’t apply to grief, but I got lost in the words. And then that after­noon I got up and I took a show­er and put on clean clothes, went to the gro­cery store and Real­ly, just from that point on, start­ed mak­ing changes.

John Moir: 13:25
Mm-hmm. Does it ever come back and bite you?

Kathy Glea­son: 13:29
Yeah, some­times, usu­al­ly on the anniver­sary of his death. I don’t remem­ber the anniver­sary of my moth­er’s death. I know approx­i­mate­ly, but I don’t know the day or the year. At this point, I Do for my son, but not for my father, but for some rea­son, Tom’s day of death is eas­i­er to remem­ber than his birth­day. Hmm, and I don’t know why that is, but on those days, it will come back, some­times at a parade, because he was retired US Army and Blonged to the Viet­nam vets of Amer­i­ca. They usu­al­ly march in parades, so some­times, when I see them, I get teary-eyed and emo­tion­al because I know that Tom is just so loy­al to them. But yeah, there are times. It’s nev­er as bad, though that was the worst; that was the bot­tom for me.

John Moir: 14:33
Kathy, I can only begin to imag­ine the pain, pos­si­bly fear and iso­la­tion that you’re fac­ing at this time. It reminds me of Fran­cis Weller, the author of The Wild Edge of Sor­row. Then I know you’ve read his book, which describes it as a rough ini­ti­a­tion. This isn’t a jour­ney we will­ing­ly embark upon, is it? It’s more like we’re try­ing to hold on tight­ly to what we cher­ish most. In our griev­ing, we do change. It’s as if we lose part of our iden­ti­ty and pull away from oth­ers. And from my shaman­ic per­spec­tive, griev­ing is deeply spir­i­tu­al work. It’s chal­leng­ing and raw and can feel incred­i­bly lone­ly, but the ache in our hearts. There’s also a pro­found con­nec­tion to our soul, and it marks the start of a trans­for­ma­tive jour­ney that might even lead us to our first steps in cre­ative expres­sion. As, won­der­ing, does this res­onate with you?

Kathy Glea­son: 15:28
I think it is espe­cial­ly look­ing back at the time. I don’t think I was aware of that con­cept, but I remem­ber talk­ing to my daugh­ter on the phone and say­ing I was tired and exhaust­ed. I feel like I’m redefin­ing myself. I’m no longer the per­son I was before, and Dur­ing the eight months when I was tak­ing care of Tom, I did­n’t real­ly real­ize how much of my life and how much of me I had giv­en up glad­ly to help him. But I Was just gone. I, you know, had noth­ing, no activ­i­ties, no friend­ships or rela­tion­ships, except for work, and that was in the hos­pice indus­try. But I said I’m redefin­ing myself. I did­n’t look at it as being cre­ative. For some rea­son, to me, grief Was an end. It was an end. That was like the stop­ping point for every­body off the bus. This is the end of the road. I Don’t know why, but as I start­ed to work through some things and start­ed to read more and Get out more and do more things, I Real­ized it cer­tain­ly isn’t the end, and my grief almost became a cat­a­lyst, yeah, so yeah. So in that way, and you know I’ve always been cre­ative, I am today. I am some­body I have nev­er been before. I Used to be an intro­vert. I’m not nec­es­sar­i­ly an intro­vert. Some­times it takes a lit­tle bit of a nudge to get me going, but it just. You know, there’s so much I feel has to be done, and I want to be a part of it and find cre­ative ways to do it. And you know, I think I’m Try­ing to stay more open to the signs along the road and, you know, say, oh yeah, all right, I’ll go that way and see what hap­pens.

John Moir: 17:30
Mm-hmm. I, Kathie, I think you’ll find this inter­est­ing. Com­ing from a shaman­ic view­point, the ini­tial stages of intense grief for us are like a dis­mem­ber­ment. This is a time when every­thing feels scat­tered and dis­ori­en­tat­ed, and giv­ing as a griev­ing deeply, I should say, can change you pro­found­ly. In shaman­ic dis­mem­ber­ment, char­i­ties, it’s like being bro­ken down com­plete­ly right to your core, to your very essence, and grief is very much like this, as we both can agree on. This process can be expe­ri­enced in dif­fer­ent ways. Some­times it’s enveloped in a sense of love and care, but at oth­er times, I tell you, it can be quite scary, just like grief, when we don’t know where the bot­tom is. The sec­ond part of this jour­ney is cru­cial, and this is when the spir­it starts to remem­ber you and bring you back togeth­er. But the remem­ber­ing feels dif­fer­ent. You emerge as a new per­son and find that by the end of this jour­ney, your capac­i­ty or com­pas­sion and love towards oth­ers has grown sig­nif­i­cant­ly.

Kathy Glea­son: 18:33
Oh yeah, you know we, yeah, I mean, I admit I’m an entire­ly dif­fer­ent per­son. But the part that’s dif­fi­cult for me real­ly some­times is to; when I stop and think about it, I have to say that right now, I’m prob­a­bly the hap­pi­est I’ve ever been in my life, and I nev­er thought I would be able to say that.

John Moir: 18:57
So do you think you’re clos­er to what­ev­er your pur­pose for com­ing into this world?

Kathy Glea­son: 19:04
I think so. I don’t think I’m there yet, but I think so. It’d be nice if I had a roadmap. So I know for sure. But we don’t, it’s left to inter­pre­ta­tion, so I don’t know yet. But I don’t think I’m done by any means.

John Moir: 19:25
Yeah, you mean with your pod­cast and your work in pal­lia­tive care. Oh, it is just such a strong con­nec­tion to the top­ic. And. I won­der if that was part of what you’re sup­posed to be doing in this life­time.

Kathy Glea­son: 19:41
I think the con­nec­tion is there some­where. I don’t know. Again, I don’t know. One of the areas of the entire pal­lia­tive care, hos­pice and every­thing like that real­ly will make me get on my soap­box, so to speak, is the idea of peo­ple who are diag­nosed with a ter­mi­nal ill­ness and reach that point where they want to end their own life. There’s all the legal­i­ties, of course, that say, oh, you can’t do that, and you can’t help any­body do that. But part of me wants to shout out, you know if you have a ter­mi­nal diag­no­sis, what dif­fer­ence does it mat­ter when? So I kind of strug­gle with that in my own mind back and forth and back and forth, that there are some issues, not just that one, but there are oth­er health­care-relat­ed issues that the legal­i­ties get in the way, the peo­ple telling you what you have to do, what’s right and what’s wrong, does­n’t seem fair. I would like some­how for there to be, for peo­ple to have more free­dom to choose their path, not nec­es­sar­i­ly be able to kill them­selves legal­ly, but at least have more auton­o­my, I guess, in those choic­es.

John Moir: 21:08
I won­der often. You know, when you walk down the street or bump into some­body you don’t know, but you have this con­ver­sion, the hearts come togeth­er, and you have these won­der­ful old and vul­ner­a­ble con­ver­sa­tions with you you have nev­er met before. But when you leave that con­ver­sa­tion, you feel won­der­ful, and some­how, you feel that some­thing opened up in you, and for days, you’ll be think­ing of these peo­ple. So let’s move to cre­ativ­i­ty and your cre­ation. Did you come up with it? I live in a grave. I mean, it’s very catchy.

Kathy Glea­son: 21:41
Oh well, the entire pod­cast was almost a divine inter­ven­tion. What­ev­er divin­i­ty you like, I have mine, I have mine. But I had been at a com­fort care home, a hos­pice home in our area, and they had asked me to lead a bereave­ment group, which I did. we had three meet­ings, and then COVID hit full force, and that was the end of the bereave­ment group. So, as COVID start­ed to wax and wane a bit, they came back and said Kathy, would you start that group again? And I said, you know, one of the mantras, if you will, for me of vol­un­teer­ing any­where is when it gets to the point that I’m giv­ing more than I’m get­ting, I need to reeval­u­ate. And I said I’m doing a lot of prepa­ra­tion and every­thing, and one or two peo­ple would show up. That’s just. The pur­pose is to make death eas­i­er to talk about, and a bereave­ment group’s not doing it for me. It just was­n’t. I did­n’t feel val­ued, I did­n’t feel reward­ed and I want­ed to feel some­thing. It was­n’t help­ing me either. And I said I don’t know. We were sit­ting around the din­ing room table at the home. My daugh­ter, Stephanie, was there, and we’re doing well. What can we do? What can we do? Can we do a vir­tu­al bereave­ment group and reach more peo­ple? Back and forth, back and forth. And all of a sud­den, the word came out of my mouth pod­cast. I had­n’t been think­ing about pod­casts. I had nev­er lis­tened to a pod­cast, and I only knew they exist­ed and basi­cal­ly what they were. That was it. As soon as I said it, my daugh­ter, Stephanie, went. Mom, that’s a great idea. I’ll help you with that. So she sat down at the table, and we start­ed plan­ning. Six weeks lat­er, we record­ed five episodes and launched our pod­cast. In those six weeks, we did all our research, learned what we need­ed to do, did our cov­er art, got accept­ed on all the pod­cast apps and every­thing, and launched the pod­cast. Regard­ing the name, we kept going back and forth, and of course, I always liked the good grief thing. I, you know, an author relies on words, and that’s. I could­n’t get away from that one. But there was already a Good Grief pod­cast, so that would­n’t work. I went back and forth and back and forth try­ing to think of acronyms, could­n’t come up with any­thing I liked. I got frus­trat­ed one day, and the phrase as I live and breathe came into my mind, and I thought, oh wait, let’s swap out the word breathe for grief, live and grieve, and it just seemed to fit, and that’s how we got the name. And I know I’m gonna grieve the rest of my life, and I was prob­a­bly griev­ing long before I even knew I was griev­ing. I don’t know how any­body could make it through COVID-19, through the pan­dem­ic, and not be griev­ing. Each and every sin­gle per­son lost some­thing, or some things or some peo­ple. Yes. We all lost. Even today, our lifestyles are com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent. So many more peo­ple work from home now than ever did. If they want to run to the store, they can do it in the mid­dle of the day. Just rearrange their own sched­ule because they work from home.

John Moir: 25:07
Did you ever keep track of the num­ber of peo­ple you’ve impact­ed by your pod­cast?

Kathy Glea­son: 25:16
Oh heav­ens, no, I prob­a­bly. You know. I’m hop­ing there are many that I don’t know about.

John Moir: 25:24
Are you approach­ing 200 episodes? Yeah, we’ve got about 154, 155 now.

Kathy Glea­son: 25:34
Yeah, yeah, three years of week­ly episodes. I think we missed one week in there, yeah. And then, of course, one week that I did my own thing, and the ini­tial one when Stephanie and I just intro­duced our­selves. But yeah, it’s 150-some­thing now. Do you add up all your down­loads? I don’t, you know, I look at him occa­sion­al­ly. I was shocked. We have one par­tic­u­lar guest with a huge fol­low­ing, and he’s been back on our pod­cast numer­ous times. I adore him, Gary Rowe. He’s a very pro­lif­ic author, a Chris­t­ian author. His words are won­der­ful, so sooth­ing, and every time he comes on, of course, he sends in his newslet­ter, he sends out that he was on our pod­cast, and he puts the link in there. And, of course, you know that week alone, we’ll have thou­sands of down­loads on a nor­mal week. Now, I mean, we start­ed out tick­led pink when we reached 50 down­loads in a week, and now we’re, you know, well, well, into the hun­dreds. You know, 300 or more, depend­ing on the episode, the top­ic and every­thing else. But oth­er than just glanc­ing at it, I don’t focus on it. The sta­tis­tic that tick­les me most prob­a­bly is that we have lis­ten­ers in 95 coun­tries around the world, and on the plat­form we use, they have a world map, and they’ll show you where all those lis­tens are, and it’s kind of neat. There are coun­tries I’ve nev­er heard of. Actu­al­ly, I think there are about 150 coun­tries in the world. So we’ve still got room to grow, and I had a friend that was going on a tour to, I think, going up to the Arc­tic, and I said, well, you know, try to find a cell tow­er some­where and lis­ten to the pod­cast so that I can have a down­load it. You know, north or south pole, but oth­er than that, I don’t focus on the sta­tis­tics. I am delight­ed when some­one emails me or reach­es out to me. They some­times will refer some­one to be a guest, or they’ll just tell me their own sto­ry.

John Moir: 27:46
I love that, but yeah, it’s just the num­ber of peo­ple you’re touch­ing. One of our man­age­ment, patri­cian, I start­ed the Soul­ful Sor­rows, to pro­mote our work­shops and grief cir­cles. We want to increase grief lit­er­a­cy, and through that, peo­ple will heal dif­fer­ent­ly, like there’s noth­ing wrong with peo­ple, and I think you men­tioned in your broad­cast, your sto­ry, that grief is just a nat­ur­al human emo­tion.

Kathy Glea­son: 28:13
Yeah, you know, I think it’s if you can some­how fig­ure out for your­self because every­body’s dif­fer­ent how to use your grief to make some changes, even if it’s the slight­est change in your rou­tine, one day where maybe you get up and go out­side for a walk or dri­ve to the park and just sit there on a rock or a pic­nic bench and just sit out­side for a lit­tle while and do noth­ing, even if that’s what it is. Just do some­thing a lit­tle dif­fer­ent, and even­tu­al­ly, I think you’ll get more accus­tomed to doing things dif­fer­ent­ly, to bring your­self through the grief and make some progress, so you won’t feel quite so des­o­late and bur­dened with it.

John Moir: 29:08
Well, that might be a good place to end our con­ver­sa­tion today with Kathy Glea­son and the wis­dom she has devel­oped over the two and a half years of pod­cast­ing and speak­ing to all these won­der­ful peo­ple you come across.

Kathy Glea­son: 29:26
Yeah, I love it. I would if it weren’t the same with­out the guests. It real­ly would­n’t.

John Moir: 29:33
All right, you have a nice day.

Kathy Glea­son: 29:35
Thank you very much. Bless you, bye-bye.

John Moir: 29:41
Grief is a heavy bur­den to bear and can often feel iso­lat­ing and over­whelm­ing. That’s where grief cir­cles come in, offer­ing a sup­port­ive and under­stand­ing com­mu­ni­ty to griev­ing peo­ple. You can’t be both the griev­er and the con­tain­er of your grief. The pur­pose of grief cir­cles is to be the hold­er and wit­ness to your pain. Your soul wants you to speak of your grief, to express your pain and your loss, and to share your his­to­ry and sto­ries of that which has been tak­en. The Urban Grief Shaman’s pod­cast is an off-shoot of Soul­ful Sor­rows, a grief-tend­ing web­site. Here, under the ser­vice menu, you will find our month­ly cir­cles. Please take the time to look and book into one or more of these month­ly cir­cles. Thank you for join­ing us in the world of Shaman­ism and its con­nec­tion to grief heal­ing and spir­i­tu­al growth. If you enjoyed this con­ver­sa­tion, be sure to sub­scribe to the Urban Grief Shaman so you nev­er miss an episode, and if you have any ques­tions or would like to explore this top­ic fur­ther, please reach out to us for com­ments and sup­port in the world to us. Until next time, may you find grace and insight into your own spir­i­tu­al jour­ney.