Interview with Dr. Virginia Simpson – lizbeth Meredith
After your father died during when you were young, you wrote that you became very anxious about death. Can you tell us how you moved from that point to becoming a bereavement expert?
My father died when I was 12, during a time when adults didn’t take into consider children’s feelings or whether we even grieved. I kept my feelings to myself and became fearful of everything, especially death.
By the time I was an adult, I thought about death a lot and was terrified. I was in my late twenties when I made a conscious decision to learn everything I could about the thing that scared me the most, and that’s when I began to study death. Reading Stephen Levine’s book Who Dies? opened me to a new way of considering death and inspired me to begin my education and career in death, dying and bereavement. I have never regretted this decision because it expanded my understanding of life and death, and taught me the value of using our pain to create more meaning in our lives. As a result of these lessons, in 1995 I founded The Mourning Star Center, a nonprofit which provided free support to grieving children and their families. I was privileged to watch families heal and sad children find their smiles.
My work with grieving people and being with people at the end of their lives is an honor and a reminder of the importance of daily gratitude and focusing on what’s going right in our lives.
What is the most important message you want to share with care providers?
I don’t know that this is the “most important message,” but I would like to say: Be kind to yourself and know that you are doing the best you can under difficult and heartbreaking circumstances. And please, get outside help and support.
What do you hope that your reading audience will get from reading The Space Between: A Memoir of Mother-Daughter Love at the End of Life?
I believe anyone who has ever had a mother will relate to the complexities inherent in the parent-child relationship. I hope parents will gain a better understanding of how their words and attitudes affect their children, and I hope children will gain a new respect for the lives their parents lived and the challenges they face. Numerous adult children have told me that The Space Between has inspired them to reach out and work harder towards better communication with their parents.
As a specialist in death, dying, and bereavement, it was important for me to provide useful information while also giving voice to the challenges and real emotions of being a caregiver. Watching someone you love fade away in bits and pieces is difficult and heart wrenching—and yet, also rewarding. I wanted readers to recognize the importance of communication and to see that even a difficult relationship can be healed.
I was privileged to witness my mother turn into pure love and to know there were no spaces left between us when she died.
This is something I wish for everyone.