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5 ways two therapists help us rewrite our stories about death

On the Peaceful Exit podcast, I spoke with therapists Justine Mastin, MA, LMFT, LADC and Larisa Garski about how we can change the narratives around #death, #dying, and #grief. 


Justine and Larisa are the authors of The Grieving Therapist: Caring for Yourself and Your Clients When it Feels Like the End of the World. They take a narrative therapy approach focused on rewriting the stories we tell ourselves that may not be serving us well. 


Through their insightful conversation, Justine and Larisa share ideas that can empower us to have more agency in the grieving process and bring creativity and even playfulness to difficult topics. 


Here are 5 key takeaways from their Peaceful Exit episode: 


1. Fan Fiction your own afterlife 


We only get one death, so Justine encourages us to "fanfic" an afterlife you would find meaningful. As she says in the book and during our conversation, “If nothing is true, then anything is possible.” Use this opportunity to play, allowing wonder, awe, and the infinity of possibility to wash over you. 


2. Spirituality is multi-dimensional 


With fewer people turning to religion, therapists like Justine and Larisa have guided clients through the big questions in life like death. Instead of turning to the clergy or the church, many are turning to therapists to provide spiritual and emotional counseling when dealing with their own death or the death of a loved one. 


3. Recognize chosen family in grieving 


Larisa and Justine both advocate for chosen family and community over societal norms prioritizing romantic relationships. Restricting grief to certain relatives can limit healing. We need language and policies validating chosen family and non-human family members. 


 4. Let grief transform you 


 This is my favorite takeaway, because humans are not stagnant, and loss is one of the most transformational processes we will go through. Justine and Larisa share how chronic illness and losing parents changed their perspectives. Allow yourself to evolve through grief instead of resisting change. Pain can gift growth. 


5. Add playfulness to balance heaviness 


While I was new to the concept of therapeutic fan fiction, I am no stranger to the need for play in adult life. As adults we can mistakenly think play is frivolous, but it enhances wellbeing. Embrace your "character three," as (Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor shared in an earlier episode of Peaceful Exit) the part that lives in the here and now. 


By opening our minds to rewriting narratives around death and grieving, we can reduce suffering for ourselves and those we counsel. Justine and Larisa model blending professional expertise with humanity and humor when facing life's hardest moments. 

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