This May Sound Crazy (But I’ll Tell You Anyway)

I don’t usually tell people this, but I had what is known as a “shared death experience” when my life-partner Kate died. I know it’s hard to believe, but that night, spirits made themselves known to me.

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I felt euphoric. The bliss lasted for months. I can still tap into it now.

And this may sound crazy, but I communicate with Kate and my mom and friends who have died and other non-physical beings. Regularly.

Yes, they communicate back.

All of these words are true for me. And they are all variations of some of the most common sentiments I’ve heard again and again – both spoken and implied – in discussions I facilitated this past year and in one-on-one conversations.

I don’t usually tell people this, but . . .

I know it’s hard to believe, but . . .

This may sound crazy, but . . .

That we give disclaimers or hesitate to share real experiences because of what others may think is a fascinating human idiosyncrasy. But what’s even more fascinating to me is what often happens next.

Tips for Talking about Loved Ones over the Holidays

This holiday season, I invite you to get more comfortable. No, I don’t mean wear your favorite flannel pajamas to Thanksgiving dinner (though I do encourage that). I mean get comfortable having conversations about loved ones who have moved on from the physical world.

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Holidays gatherings are often a time of annual traditions and expectations. Many people seem to enjoy the predictability of who they will see and what will happen throughout the day.

Maybe every year, you expect to play cards before dinner or wish the TV wasn’t so loud. Maybe you count on eating canned beets or having the green bean casserole in the same glass Pyrex dish next to the yams.

But then one year, there’s no green bean casserole. Because there’s no Aunt Sally to bring it.

And suddenly, you find yourself needing to adapt. And having to do so in the company of others. Will mentioning the person who is no longer sitting at the table be a holiday downer? Or can talking freely about her or him connect you all in deeper ways?

Coming Out of a Different Kind of Closet

I’m usually quite comfortable talking about my life-partner Kate. But sometimes, especially when I meet new people, I find myself hoping the conversation doesn’t bring me to mention her name. My hesitation doesn’t come because she’s a woman. My hesitation comes because . . . she’s dead.

Even if I share this news in a softer way, people are often caught off-guard, which isn’t my intention. Whether I’m coming out as a lesbian, or coming out as someone who experienced the death of a soul mate, my intention is to be honest about my life.

Similar to my experience of coming out in the 1990s, talking about death means anticipating people’s potential discomfort. Sometimes people don’t know what to say or do. Or I can feel their pity and the assumptions they make about what it’s been like for me. This often shifts the energy of the conversation.

I don’t want to feel awkward about withholding a significant part of my life. And I don’t want to make other people feel awkward either. Rather than being self-conscious when I speak about Kate, I do my best to be conscious and real.