Grief Counseling: Explore ‘Complicated Grief’ with Charley Rosicky

Longtime hospice worker, grief counselor and meditation teacher, Charley Rosicky, discusses 'complicated grief' and shares stories of working with the dying and those left behind.
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Our upcoming Death Documentary will feature more details about choosing end of life care and grief counseling.

Grief Counseling with Charley Rosicky – Podcast Transcription

Kelly MacLean: It’s the When You Die podcast. I’m Kelly MacLean. My guest today is Charley Rosicky. Charley is a licensed clinical social worker. He’s worked as a hospice social worker for 14 years, and more recently for the past three years as a grief counselor in Lafayette, Colorado. Charley’s also a meditation teacher in the Shambhala Buddhist tradition.

Along with his wonderful wife, Norah Murray, Charley founded and directed the mindfulness based Shitoku [inaudible 00:00:38] Children’s Center, there he taught meditation and contemplative arts to many children, including … Drum roll … Myself.

It was really a pleasure to all of these years later get to sit down with Charley, and talk about grief, something that I have been struggling with the last couple of years since the sudden passing of my brother, and something that Charley spends his days thinking about, and soaking in, as he supports people going through it.

So, we talked about what grief does to the body, and mind, and family, and something called ‘complicated grief, ‘ and how to work with it. So, I hope you enjoy the When You Die podcast.

Kelly MacLean: What an interesting window into the human mind you have, because you meet it when it’s the most almost like … Yeah, you meet it when it’s the most cracked open.

Charley Rosicky: Mmm. I was talking to a guy this … Last week, I think, who’s grieving the loss … The death of his wife, and he was asleep in his living room, and someone put their hand on his shoulder, and he woke up, and there was nobody there, and he has no doubt in his mind that it was her touching him.

Kelly MacLean: Wow.

Charley Rosicky: And he knew it was her touching him when he felt the hand on his shoulder, and-

Kelly MacLean: Hmm.

Grief counseling talk by Charley Rosicky

Charley Rosicky: So, when you hear that you’re like, “Well, he was dreaming, or he was … He could have been imagining that,” or, you know, “He could have just been wanting that to happen, and so, therefore, he imagined it happened.” But from his experience, it was not like any of those things. You know, it was actually, it was definitely her there, and I …

So, it’s been a real kind of … As a person who’s studied science, it’s been a … It’s been kind of a learning curve for me to be open to the possibility of those kinds of things-

Kelly MacLean: Mm-hmm.

Charley Rosicky: You know? When people tell me about them, to really be like … To really be … To try to put myself in their shoes, and to be there with all of those experiences, and understand, and see the validity, and the realness of them for people.

Kelly MacLean: Right. Like just as real as if your wife-

Charley Rosicky: And-

Kelly MacLean: Had put her hand on your shoulder, you would know, “That’s my wife-“

Charley Rosicky: Yeah.

Kelly MacLean: “She put her hand on my shoulder.”

Charley Rosicky: Yeah. He certainly knows the feeling of his wife’s hand, and I actually think now … I actually believe that that might … That probably was what actually happened.

Kelly MacLean: Wow.

Charley Rosicky: I mean, I actually think that. I don’t know, of course, but …

Kelly MacLean: I love that. So, doing this kind of work has expanded your mind a little bit from not just cynical Buddhist mind, right?

Charley Rosicky: Well, I still have that.

Kelly MacLean: Well, I know-

Charley Rosicky: I’m doing better.

Kelly MacLean: Yeah. I mean, I’ve … For me, I have questioned a lot of boundaries that I thought existed since my brother died … And like, I had this little experience where … He was a great photographer, and he’s now at Shambhala Mountain Center, his ashes are at Shambhala Mountain Retreat Center, in the Rockies, and they’re right behind this beautiful tori gate, I’m sure you know the one-

Charley Rosicky: Mm-hmm.

Kelly MacLean: And I inherited his camera, and I finally brought myself to look through it going, “Please God, may there be zero dirty pictures on this camera,” which thankfully it was all beautiful scenery-

Charley Rosicky: Oh, nice.

Kelly MacLean: And there was a shot of this tori gate that he’s buried just beyond, and … Or not buried, but his ashes are scattered, and it’s the most beautiful shot that the sun comes in at this particular direction, and I swear, it was one of the very last photographs he took-

Charley Rosicky: Hmm.

[00:05:00]

Kelly MacLean: Was of this … What is now his final resting place-

Charley Rosicky: Oh my Gosh. Wow.

Kelly MacLean: And I took it to Kinko’s to get it printed, so that I could give it … A couple of copies away, and the guy was so struck at Kinko’s by this photo, he was like, “That’s really cool,” and he ended up giving me … He said, “You know what? I’m so taken with this picture, I’m just going to give you these on the house. My gift to you.”

Charley Rosicky: Hmm.

Kelly MacLean: And I just really felt that it was some sort of wink from my … Some sort of gift from my brother.

Charley Rosicky: Uh-huh. Uh-huh.

Kelly MacLean: And, of course, burst into tears.

Charley Rosicky: Mm-hmm.

Kelly MacLean: But I could just … And I felt his presence, and so, I don’t know how that’s possible.

Charley Rosicky: Mm-hmm.

Kelly MacLean: But … It has also been mind opening for me-

Charley Rosicky: Hmm.

feather-illustration of grief

Kelly MacLean: To have many series of experiences like that, which sure, you could say I’m just ascribing meaning where I want to find it, but … I don’t know. There was really something about the energy of that moment that was … Something magical was happening.

Charley Rosicky: Absolutely. That’s a story you’ll have for the rest of your life.

Kelly MacLean: Yeah. Of course, my husband thinks that the guy just thought I was cute, but …

So, what have you learned from your time getting this really intimate snapshot of death, and dying, and grief, over the last … How many years?

Charley Rosicky: Hmm … 16. Well, there’s all kinds of things. They’re all kind of learning curves that I’m on. One is, you know, how to help people who are grieving. So, there’s the whole idea of, you know, just studying the field of grief counseling. And when I was doing the hospice social work, you know, just studying the field of, you know, supporting the terminally ill, and their loved ones. And both experientially sort of studying, you know, the people I’m working with, and see what’s … You know, what do I, you know …  What do I say and do that seems useful to them? And what do I say and do that’s not useful for them? And sort of learning that way, and also, you know, learning from colleagues, and learning from books, and so, that’s one sort of learning curve about trying to be skillful and effective in the work that I do.

And another learning curve is sort of … I think we sort of already talked about this, sort of my own relationship with my own death, and, you know, change-

Kelly MacLean: Mm-hmm.

Charley Rosicky: In my own life, and just …

Kelly MacLean: How has it changed your relationship to knowing that death is coming?

Charley Rosicky: For myself?

Kelly MacLean: For yourself.

Charley Rosicky: It’s interesting to … To think about that question, because in a way I don’t know how it’s changed it, because I don’t know what I would be like if I hadn’t done-

Kelly MacLean: Yeah.

Charley Rosicky: This work for the last 16 years, but … I feel like I have a long way to go in terms of, you know, not being … You know, being … Like I described this sense of … Of contentment with life and with death earlier. Well, I’m not completely there, and I feel like there’s … I still feel anxious. You know, I think about the death of my wife, and I think about the death of myself-

Kelly MacLean: Mm-hmm.

candle-representing grief counseling

Charley Rosicky: And I think about how we will handle those things, and I think about the death of close friends, and my parents who are still living, and my siblings, and I’m perhaps more aware of that than other people-

Kelly MacLean: Mm-hmm.

Charley Rosicky: Just because it’s such a big part of my work life that I … And I’m … I’ve seen so many different ways that people die, and I kind of think about who might die what way-

Kelly MacLean: [laughs]

Charley Rosicky: What way do I want to die? And what way do I not want to die?

Kelly MacLean: Well, your mind has to go to some morbid places when you’re a grief worker, right?

Charley Rosicky: Yeah, yeah. So, there’s … There is kind of a dark and scary side to just being around death a lot, and just kind of … And one’s mind … My mind, can kind of … Maybe overly identify with clients, and death-

Kelly MacLean: Mm-hmm.

Charley Rosicky: And so, to compensate for that, I try to watch … We try to watch shows that are like, funny, like … Because she … You know, she wants to … My wife, Norah, wants to, you know, watch a show that’s full of death, and like, violence, and stuff. I’d be like, “You go ahead, and watch that-“

Kelly MacLean: Well, she works with children all day. She needs to watch that, maybe-

[00:10:00]

Charley Rosicky: Yeah, yeah. She is the opposite. We have the opposite kind of thing, like-

Kelly MacLean: Yeah.

Charley Rosicky: She’s in the … Kind of fantasy play world all of the time, and she

wants reality-

Kelly MacLean: Yeah.

Charley Rosicky: And I’m in this intense reality, and I kind of want to play, you know? So, I go, “I’ll go work in the garden, you watch that-“

Kelly MacLean: Yeah.

Charley Rosicky: Or, you know, “I’ll go play ultimate Frisbee with my friends, you watch the … The … ” What was that one? The Killing. That was one of them.

Kelly MacLean: Oh … I didn’t see that.

Charley Rosicky: It was … Anyway. [crosstalk 00:10:35]

Kelly MacLean: Yeah. Well, a lot of us, I’d say most of us, maybe all of us, feel like we have to … Avoid death, or not think about it, because that would just be depressing, and morbid, and, you know, “just enjoy your life,” kind of attitude. But you don’t really … You don’t have the luxury of, so to speak, “living in a fantasy world, that that doesn’t actually exist.”

Charley Rosicky: No, right. I feel like that’s a blessing, for sure. Even though there’s this challenging side that I have to always work with, and kind of, you know, stay identified with the, you know, with life, but there’s so much blessing in it, in that I … You know, I’m going to … I think I’m going to be more prepared for my own death than most people-

Kelly MacLean: Yeah.

Charley Rosicky: And for other people’s deaths in my life, and accepting, and ready, and … I don’t know what, you know, the next … My next major loss … What ever I have, you know, how I’ll deal with the grief process. That’s interesting, as a grief counselor, I haven’t actually thought about that too much, but …

Kelly MacLean: Mmm.

Charley Rosicky: But … At least I’ll know how to counsel myself.

Kelly MacLean: Yeah, right? Or you won’t-

Charley Rosicky: Or I won’t.

Kelly MacLean: “This is a lot harder than counseling someone else.”

Charley Rosicky: Right.

Kelly MacLean: How do you counsel people? Do you … Is it mostly just a process of listening, and creating a space for them? Or is there a kind of teacher quality to it?

Charley Rosicky: Oh, the … You know, just listening, and creating a safe space is a big part of effective grief counseling, from my understanding. There’s an educational component, for sure, for some people, to just help them understand what’s normal-

Kelly MacLean: Mm-hmm.

Charley Rosicky: For grieving, because there are a lot of things that are similar that people experience, like, you know, disturbance in their sleep, or appetite, other things like that that they may not be aware of our … Just normal human grief that comes out of the human body, that’s not … That doesn’t mean they’re crazy, or that they necessarily need to, you know, seek treatments-

Kelly MacLean: Mm-hmm.

Charley Rosicky: And that this resolves on it’s own, for most people-

Kelly MacLean: Or that they’re lazy, or that they’re-

Charley Rosicky: Mm-hmm. Yeah, and, you know, working with the anger, and guilt feelings that come up around loss of a loved one, for whatever kinds of reasons that they come up, is very common. And so, an educational component to help people understand that, you know, that … That they’re doing okay, you know, that they’re working through what they need to work through. So, there is a little bit of an educational component … Yeah, in that way, and …

Kelly MacLean: Do you lead groups? Or is it mostly one-on-one?

Charley Rosicky: Groups are very effective for a lot of people.

Kelly MacLean: I have … I’m in a grief group-

Charley Rosicky: Mm-hmm.

Kelly MacLean: That’s the only sort of counseling I got, and it’ll be a year in August since I’ve been in it. We all lost siblings-

Charley Rosicky: Oh.

Kelly MacLean: The people who stayed in the group … It was like 12 to begin with, now it’s four, and the group has formally ended-

Charley Rosicky: Mm-hmm.

Kelly MacLean: But we … But we keep meeting outside of it, and the people that are left, we all lost our older brothers. So, we sort of wondered if …

Charley Rosicky: Hmm.

Kelly MacLean: Maybe there’s something about that particular thing that’s like, really hard to get over psychologically, or something?

Charley Rosicky: Oh.

Kelly MacLean: But yeah … Just having a safe space to talk about it.

Charley Rosicky: That’s great. How did you find the group?

[00:15:00]

Kelly MacLean: It’s … I had a friend who lost her brother like … In the Shambhala community, who lost her brother a few weeks before I did, and then she was like, “You should really … You should really look into this group.”

Charley Rosicky: Mm-hmm.

Kelly MacLean: So, it’s been helpful. Do you ever work … Did you work with people at the end of their life before you specifically did grief counseling?

Charley Rosicky: No, just my grandfather-

Kelly MacLean: Right.

Charley Rosicky: That I mentioned before, I … I was his caregiver for a month, after he broke his neck-

Kelly MacLean: Whoa.

Charley Rosicky: In a car accident, and he wasn’t dying at that time. He recovered from the car accident, but he was in his … Oh Gosh. I don’t know … Late 70’s, and he didn’t live too many years after that, so-

Kelly MacLean: Mmm.

Charley Rosicky: But no, I didn’t do any formal work in the field.

Kelly MacLean: Yeah. So, it’s more steeped in the grief. What have you learned about grief, in particular? It’s such a weird thing. It’s such an all consuming, and very malleable emotion … If you want to call it an emotion … Experience.

Charley Rosicky: Yeah. I’ve learned that people can go through amazing personal growth when they do grief work-

Kelly MacLean: Hmm.

Charley Rosicky: In other words, engage with their grief in a conscious way, like you did with your group. I imagine you experienced some significant insight, and personal growth, through doing that … Or maybe just stabilization. Sometimes people, you know, find something out about themselves that they never knew through going through a grief process. So, there’s a whole sort of positive side that people who deny their grief, or don’t ever do grief work, you know, and just kind of like, “This is this terrible thing that happened to me, and I’m never going to, you know, talk about it, or try to understand what it means to me, or … “ And just work on it by themselves, can be … Can turn into an illness, or it can be-

Kelly MacLean: Mm-hmm.

Charley Rosicky: Become an obstacle for them later in life, I think.

Kelly MacLean: Right, and just … You were … It sounds like you’re also saying that they’re kind of missing out.

Charley Rosicky: Not that I … Something else I’ve learned about grief though, is that it’s so … Can be so devastating, and so … Just debilitating, and people can develop all kinds of … Even people who are trying to do conscious grief work can have complicated reactions that are, you know, very hard to work with, and to overcome.

Kelly MacLean: Mmm.

Charley Rosicky: Some people don’t ever really recover from grief.

Kelly MacLean: Yeah. That’s an important thing for people to know, actually.

Charley Rosicky: I-

Kelly MacLean: Because there’s always this sort of … It seems to me that people often think after a certain amount of time that … “Time heals all wounds,” and that-

Charley Rosicky: Mm-hmm.

Kelly MacLean: Things … You know, that it’ll move on, but some people are really so changed to their core.

Charley Rosicky: Yeah, yeah, and I wasn’t, you know, insinuating that ideally people recover from grief-

Kelly MacLean: Yeah.

Charley Rosicky: Necessarily, but more like integrate it into their life in a way that they can continue to function, and enjoy, and have … Make new relationships. But people who get caught in what they call ‘complicated grief’ can need a lot of extra help to move through it.

Kelly MacLean: Mmm.

Charley Rosicky: Whether or not they ever get that help is up to them. So, I’ve seen people in some pretty, pretty difficult places, and some people, I don’t know if they’ve ever, you know … Some … I don’t get to see everyone’s whole story. So, some people … Some people who I’ve interacted with, I never got to find out if they survived … Even survived. They might of, you know, killed them selves.

Kelly MacLean: Right.

Charley Rosicky: I don’t know of anyone who’s done that, but it happens, and … Most of the … And … But most of the time we see, you know, like … Most of the people that come in for grief counseling have some thing that’s extra difficult for them, because most people don’t need any grief counseling to get through a loss in a healthy way.

Kelly MacLean: Really?

[00:20:00]

Charley Rosicky: It’s just inherent in human nature to understand, and come to terms with a death in their life. It’s part of life, and friends and family can support people to just … Keep living in a healthy way.

Kelly MacLean: Mm-hmm.

Charley Rosicky: People don’t have … Everyone doesn’t have to do any kind of formal grief work. But people that do, the vast majority see, you know, the ability to … Re-engage in healthy ways in relationships, and learn from the experience, and … It’s just a small percentage of people who kind of … The stuck-ness is just very difficult to move through.

Kelly MacLean: Yeah.

Charley Rosicky: And the [inaudible 00:20:55]-

Kelly MacLean: I’ve seen people like that.

Charley Rosicky: Yeah.

Kelly MacLean: Is there a common theme among people that are really experiencing complicated grief?

Charley Rosicky: Um …

Kelly MacLean: Is there any sort of over arching thread that you see that connects people that really struggle in that way?

Charley Rosicky: One of them is isolation, or lack of social connections-

Kelly MacLean: Hmm.

Charley Rosicky: Whether it’s real, or perceived, or, you know, self-created, but just … It’s a huge strength, and for people who are grieving who come in and say, “Oh, but, you know, I have all these people around me who are caring, and asking if they can help,” and so, that right there tells us that a person is likely going to be fine-

Kelly MacLean: Hmm.

Charley Rosicky: Just in itself.

Kelly MacLean: Mm-hmm.

Charley Rosicky: So, social support is really one of the main themes of what dictates a complicated versus healthy grief risk.

Kelly MacLean: Mm-hmm.

Charley Rosicky: And, you know, another one is mental health history, and substance use history, and … Yeah.

Kelly MacLean: I think I asked you, if you had a TED Talk, what your TED Talk would be … I was wondering if you thought any more about that? Or if there was something in particular that you just think, “Gosh, I really wish people understood this piece about grief, or about death, and dying in general.”

Charley Rosicky: I didn’t prepare my TED Talk.

Kelly MacLean: [laughs] But TED’s outside, he-

Charley Rosicky: There’s a … Oh, no, I see, there’s someone [crosstalk 00:23:05]-

Kelly MacLean: [laughs]

Charley Rosicky: There’s a … There’s a great question. You know, when you first asked that I thought, you know, I love this idea … And it’s sort of personal experience of contentment that I have gained a little bit of through I think being in this field, and having, you know, sort of the honor of working with people who are dying, and people who are working with their grief … Is this, you know … To see contentment in them, and to … It’s kind of helped me to find contentment in myself with the changes in my life. So, maybe it would be a TED Talk on contentment in the face of change.

Kelly MacLean: Mmm.

Charley Rosicky: How does-

Kelly MacLean: Now-

Charley Rosicky: How does that sound?

Kelly MacLean: That’s a good title of a TED Talk.

Charley Rosicky: [laughs]

Kelly MacLean: You already have a title.

Charley Rosicky: [laughs]

Kelly MacLean: That’s great. “Contentment in the face of change.” Yeah. It seems like that energy really can be conducive to creativity as well. Have you seen that with any of your grief sufferers that you are helping?

Charley Rosicky: Hmm …

Kelly MacLean: Because for me-

Charley Rosicky: “Conducive to creativity.”

Kelly MacLean: It’s one of the blessing things that’s come out of it has actually been creative energy, and a lot of it’s like, darker stuff. Like I told you I wrote this, “How to Un-friend Your Dead Brother” piece, but a lot of, you know … I think the whole … This podcast, and the whole other one that I host, really kind of came out of that existential crisis where I had to kind of dig deep, where I was really forced by the universe to do some serious contemplation-

Charley Rosicky: Mmm.

Kelly MacLean: And, you know, when you’re cracked open-

Charley Rosicky: Mm-hmm.

Kelly MacLean: There’s a lot of juice there.

[00:25:00]

Charley Rosicky: Mmm. Yeah, yeah. I’m thinking about, you know, people that I’ve worked with who might mirror your, you know, the new found creativity you had after your brother’s death. There was a man who lost his wife, who struggled a lot, and … He became a quilter, you know-

Kelly MacLean: Hmm …

Charley Rosicky: He already had a relationship with sewing, and quilting, but he really leaned into it-

Kelly MacLean: Mmm.

Charley Rosicky: He was like the only man in his quilting group. [laughs]

Kelly MacLean: Oh, I bet. [laughs]

Charley Rosicky: He’s part of this group that gives quilts away to needy people, hospitals, and things like that.

Kelly MacLean: Oh, sweet.

Charley Rosicky: Yeah, I’m sure there’s other examples I could think of, but nothing-

Kelly MacLean: One of my friends in my grief group, her mother had a quilt made for her of all of her brother’s t-shirts, so all of these little squares-

Charley Rosicky: Mmm.

Kelly MacLean: From his old t-shirts, that otherwise they probably … They might of just tossed, right? So, she has this super old t-shirt snuggly quilt that makes her feel close to her brother.

Charley Rosicky: Mmm.

Kelly MacLean: I thought that was so beautiful.

Charley Rosicky: Mm-hmm.

Kelly MacLean: I was like, “Oh, we shouldn’t have thrown all … Given all those away.” Yeah.

Charley Rosicky: Yeah. I’ve heard of people making pillows, and … Out of pieces of people’s shirts-

Kelly MacLean: Mmm.

Charley Rosicky: After they’ve passed, and things like that. That’s cool.

Kelly MacLean: Yeah. Okay. Well, we’ll wrap up soon, but I wanted to ask you if there … If there’s … What place humor has in grief?

Charley Rosicky: When I was a social worker on the hospice team, it was important for us as a hospice team of colleagues supporting each other doing pretty difficult and stressful work to laugh together-

Kelly MacLean: Yeah.

Charley Rosicky: And sometimes we called it dark humor.

Kelly MacLean: Mm-hmm.

Charley Rosicky: Because we would have to make fun of the situations we were in, which were all about death, so … So, you know, there was that amongst colleagues-

Kelly MacLean: Mm-hmm.

Charley Rosicky: And there still is among my grief counseling colleagues. It’s just, you know, the self care of supporting each other who do this work, and … You know, chatting in the hall way, and visiting each other in our offices, and just providing a human heart, and we laugh together, and … I’m growing some sea monkeys in a glass in the window of my office-

Kelly MacLean: Oh, you are?

Charley Rosicky: And I was trying to get one of my colleagues to take them home to his children, and so, we were laughing about the sea monkeys, because he doesn’t want them either.

Kelly MacLean: [laughs]

Charley Rosicky: [laughs] They’re like little brine shrimp-

Kelly MacLean: Oh, that’s funny.

Charley Rosicky: That you hatch in a glass, and-

Kelly MacLean: Yeah. What came over you?

Charley Rosicky: Oh, someone gave them to us-

Kelly MacLean: Oh, funny.

Charley Rosicky: And we were like, “What are we going to do with this? We’re Buddhists. These things are going to die-”

Kelly MacLean: Yeah.

Charley Rosicky: “Like, whether we hatch these eggs, or not hatch these eggs … ” Like, I can’t give them to my friend if they’re too old to hatch, so I have to hatch them myself in order to find out if they’re going to survive.

Kelly MacLean: So, you’re fostering the sea monkeys?

Charley Rosicky: [laughs]

Kelly MacLean: [laughs]

Charley Rosicky: Yeah, and then with clients, you know, I think it’s very dicey to try to … Like-

Kelly MacLean: Yeah.

Charley Rosicky: Use humor with someone who’s grieving, or someone who’s dying, or someone who’s in anticipatory grief, but it just naturally comes up-

Kelly MacLean: That’s beautiful.

Charley Rosicky: And that’s just the way it is, but, you know, you can’t … I don’t sort of use it as a tool, or technique, or something like that. I don’t think that’s-

Kelly MacLean: Right.

Charley Rosicky: That’s … Some people may be able to, because of their style, and their personality, but … You know, there’s a lot of respect of the pain, and suffering, that people are in-

Kelly MacLean: Absolutely.

Charley Rosicky: That sort of has to come first-

Kelly MacLean: Yeah.

Charley Rosicky: And humor can come out of that when there’s just genuine interaction.

Kelly MacLean: Right. It sounds like the natural gentle kind of humor of existence, but probably … If it were me, I’m sure I would accidentally slip in a one liner insensitively at some point in 16 years.

Charley Rosicky: [laughs]

Kelly MacLean: Is there … What is one thing that you wish … This has been fun, because I’ve gotten to ask this to the few people that I’ve done this podcast with so far. Is there one thing that you wish for yourself … What is one thing you wish for yourself for your own death?

Charley Rosicky: One thing I wish for myself in my own death?

Kelly MacLean: A death wish … So to speak.

Charley Rosicky: Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s to have a disease.

Kelly MacLean: Hmm.

Charley Rosicky: It’s to die from a disease-

Kelly MacLean: Wow.

Charley Rosicky: Where I have time to prepare-

Kelly MacLean: Yeah. Time … Death and time.

Charley Rosicky: Where I know I’m dying-

Kelly MacLean: Oh, yes. Yeah. I think that’s very … Good wish.

Charley Rosicky: Rather than an accident-

Kelly MacLean: Yeah.

Charley Rosicky: Or a sudden heart attack. I suppose you could call a heart attack a disease, but I’m talking about …

Kelly MacLean: Something where there’s warning. Yeah.

Charley Rosicky: Cancer.

Kelly MacLean: Yeah.

Charley Rosicky: Cancer would work for me.

Kelly MacLean: Wow. You’re one of the only ones out there who wants cancer-

Charley Rosicky: [laughs]

Kelly MacLean: “Just no time soon, please.” Yeah. That makes a lot of sense. Has the sudden death thing been one of the threads with complicated grief?

Charley Rosicky: Has what?

Kelly MacLean: Sudden death, does that lend itself to complicated grief more?

Charley Rosicky: Mm-hmm. Yeah, yeah, because you didn’t get to say good bye-

Kelly MacLean: Yeah.

Charley Rosicky: Get ready before the person died.

Kelly MacLean: And then it gives you this feeling that something horrible could happen at any moment. I mean, I had a policeman come to the door a few weeks after my brother died, and that’s how we found out. The policeman came to my Mom’s door. So, a policeman came to the door, and my heart was racing, like-

Charley Rosicky: Oh.

Kelly MacLean: And then, of course, I open it, and they’re like, “Does someone here own a grey Pontiac?” And I’m like, “Oh, good. I just parked in front of someone’s drive way, and they called the cops.” Which is a true story. Just seeing a policeman at my door, I thought, “Well, who died?” You know? Or if my Dad calls me, and my Mom, and sister all text at the same time, I freak out.

Charley Rosicky: Mm-hmm.

Kelly MacLean: Which happens all the time, because we have a big communicative family-

Charley Rosicky: Mm-hmm.

Kelly MacLean: So-

Charley Rosicky: Yeah, yeah … Yeah. So, that’s why there are support groups specifically for sudden loses.

Kelly MacLean: Oh, I didn’t know that.

Charley Rosicky: You know, because it’s a real kind of specific kind of loss that happens, you know, all the time, and it’s got … You know, it’s got some specific components that other kinds of losses don’t have, so … Just like you’re describing.

Kelly MacLean: Yeah. Wow. Thank you for talking with me. I feel it has been like a free grief session, too.

Charley Rosicky: [laughs]

Kelly MacLean: It’s nice to get to talk with you a little bit about this very strange, very powerful, real emotion experience of grief, and thank you for the work you do with people. I’m sure it’s way more meaningful than you even realize. I’m sure you realize, but … It’s like being a life jacket for somebody.

Charley Rosicky: Well, thank you for asking me so many deep, and profound questions about my work. I don’t get to talk like this with people very often, actually.

Kelly MacLean: Mmm.

Charley Rosicky: You would think I would.

Kelly MacLean: Yeah.

Charley Rosicky: But for people to ask me to reflect on the work that I do, is a gift. So, thank you.

Kelly MacLean: Oh, good. Well, thank you very much for sharing. I think people are going to appreciate hearing this point of view of this incredible work you do. One last question, I swear.

Charley Rosicky: [laughs]

Kelly MacLean: Is it depressing?

Charley Rosicky: Um …

Kelly MacLean: Your job?

Charley Rosicky: Well, it’s both. It’s depressing, and it’s also inspiring.

Kelly MacLean: Yeah.

Charley Rosicky: You know, like I described, you know, some people, they’re really stuck, and it’s hard to get through, and it’s hard to help them, or they don’t really want to be helped, or they don’t, you know, allow us to help them, and, you know, we hear some scary stories, and experience some people that are in high states of anxiety, and deep depression themselves, and that can sometimes feel heavy, and … Yeah, affects my … And definitely … I definitely feel it in my own, you know, being-

Kelly MacLean: Mm-hmm.

Charley Rosicky: And so, that’s why I have to do my own conscious self care. But then there’s the side of it where, you know, you see people have insight, and you see people talk about their, you know … Working through their anxieties, and learning something about themselves, and freeing themselves of some sort of self doubt, or, you know, habits that they’ve had all their life,  and they … This death has brought about their ability-

Kelly MacLean: Mmm.

Charley Rosicky: To see something about themselves they never saw before. And then there’s those people … There’s a whole category of stories about people who are elderly, who’ve lived long lives, who are dying, and they’re fine with it-

Kelly MacLean: Mmm.

Charley Rosicky: And they talk about it with such confidence, and fearlessness-

Kelly MacLean: Wow.

[00:35:00]

Charley Rosicky: And joy, and laughter, and there’s this whole like … This … After years of experience being in the … I’m going to use the phrase like, “being in the presence of people who are like … So light-“

Kelly MacLean: Mmm.

Charley Rosicky: Like, they’re almost like … They’re getting ready to die, and they’re letting go of everything, and it’s in a way that’s really sort of healthy, and has this almost sort of spiritual feel to it where they’re just … And being around them is just like a … Is like a joy.

Kelly MacLean: Yeah.

Charley Rosicky: So, there are all kinds of blessings in the work as well.

Kelly MacLean: Wow. That’s a beautiful image. Thank you for sharing that.

Charley Rosicky: Sure.

Kelly MacLean: Yeah. It’s like they’re experiencing a little less gravity on the Earth than the rest of us-

Charley Rosicky: Mm-hmm.

Kelly MacLean: Or something.

Charley Rosicky: Mm-hmm.

Kelly MacLean: Well, thank you again-

Charley Rosicky: Sure.

Kelly MacLean: It was lovely to chat with you. Good luck with the sea monkeys.

Charley Rosicky: Thank you. They’re going to … They’re going to pass on-

Kelly MacLean: Yeah.

Charley Rosicky: As well.

Kelly MacLean: Yes. Sea monkeys, too.

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