I remember my piano teacher telling me that music is a universal language. Now I put love, loss, and grief in that category, too.
Regardless of who we are, what we believe, or where we live, all of us will experience some degree of love, loss, and grief in our lifetime. And in Conversations With My Soul: Stories and Reflections on Life, Death, and Love After Loss, therapist Ellen P. Fitzkee lets us go deep into her own experiences so that we may reflect on our own.
“I have accumulated five significant losses in a span of three years,” Fitzkee writes, “and in some ways, I continue to recover from the depths of despair.” I knew right at this line that I would not be a detached, observational reader of her book. I knew that I would also be reflecting on my own journey in dealing with loss, grief, and healing.
Fitzkee gives brief descriptions of the New Age movement and mindfulness. Both have had a significant impact on her life. In reference to the first, she acknowledges that “some of the coping skills I explore are not main stream but they offer a change in focus and as a result, a better understanding of human existence by looking within and discovering what we have always known to be true.”
I am a Christian, so I have a different belief system, but I respect and recognize that this is Fitzkee’s experience. These off-the-beaten-path techniques are how she attains peace, becomes centered and connected, and draws her hope and strength when dealing with enormous sadness and setbacks.
Fitzkee has also chosen to serve others during the course of her work. “I became the parent to others that I wanted to have,” she writes. “I chose career paths that allowed me to express this whether I was a teacher, coach, counselor, therapist, or mentor.” Here, she courageously opens the door to her heart through journaling, which is a widely used practice for stress reduction, reflection, and problem-solving regardless of one’s spiritual or religious beliefs or affiliations. Her entries — which we as readers can explore — reveal her professional and personal experiences, identity, discoveries, pain, joys, and desires. We learn about some of her experiences as a school counselor, and as “Mom” to two dogs.
Fitzkee also reflects on her past, present, and future relationships. She uses spirit guides, channeled writing, and other approaches that may sound mystical to some readers but that Fitzkee finds help her learn about herself. Since she also incorporates mindfulness and centering on a daily basis, she gravitates toward “living in the moment.”
I know from my own experience that grief and loss are huge forces in our lives, often leaving us with a bruised heart and emotional scars. However, I’ve found, if and when you’re open to healing, your heart and soul will slowly begin to slough off the layers of pain. Then, almost by surprise, you find that you have the ability and stamina to live and love again.
There are not too many people in this world who willingly invite strangers into their painful journey through grief, but Fitzkee is one of them. I am thankful for the way she graciously allows us to see this process unfold in her life, and to share the things that mean the most not only to her, but to all of us.
Conversations With My Soul: Stories and Reflections on Life, Death, and Love After Loss
Balboa Press, October 2014
Paperback, 118 pages