What do you say to someone who’s lost a loved one, or is facing the terrifying imponderables of a terminal illness? How do you choose the right words, find the right tone? How do you make your way through the fear of saying the wrong things to offering something that truly feels supportive and helpful?
Not surprisingly, most people shy away from emotionally fraught subjects like death and grieving, but best-selling author David Kessler has spent his life becoming an expert on them. Why? As he reveals in the following interview, one fateful day in his childhood forced him to confront death on many levels, and led him to spend years working in hospice centers and on disaster and trauma teams around the world. Kessler, known for his collaboration with the legendary Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, coauthored two best-selling books with her: On Grief and Grieving and Life Lessons. Over the course of his career, he’s helped thousands of people deal with the end of life and the grieving process. Here, he discusses lessons he’s learned.
RH: How did you become interested in death and dying?
Kessler: You don’t choose to work in this field: it chooses you. In my case, it chose me in a really dramatic way…