Susan Mercer – Book Journeys Author Interview Transcript – Mar. 23, 2017

Book Journeys Author Interview – Mar. 23, 2017

 

Jenn McRobbie with Susan Mercer, author of A Graceful Goodbye: A New Outlook on Death.

 

“I don’t have a fear of death myself, because I don’t think it’s the ending, I think it’s just another way of living, once we come out of the physical body.” ~Susan Mercer

 

Jenn:

Well, hello, everyone! It’s March 23rd and welcome to another episode of Book Journeys Radio. Every week here, we speak to accomplished authors who’ve gone from just having an idea for a book to a finished book who are out making a huge difference in the world. And our goal for this show is for yo – for you to walk away, inspired and motivated, to write your own book, whether it’s your first or your third. Today’s author is Susan Mercer, and I have to just read to you the list of titles Susan has, because we only have thirty minutes and she is such an incredible person and does so many things that I wanted to just get all of these things out for you before we start to talk to her. Susan is the owner of Modern Outlooks, an end-of-life doula, a Kundalani reiki practitioner, and energy healer, space clearer, educator and interior designer, all on top of being the bestselling author of A Graceful Goodbye. Welcome, Susan!

 

Susan:

Thank you. Thanks for having me, Jenn!

 

Jenn:

Thank you for being on the show, we have so much to talk about but I always ask our authors to first begin by telling our listeners w – what is your book about, and who is it for?

 

Susan:

So, my book is about, really, the celebration of life. It’s – it is for someone who is dealing with maybe an elderly parent or a family member who’s just been diagnosed with a terminal illness, and instead of getting caught up in all of the, “Oh, my gosh, we’re now gonna deal with death and what does that look like?” It’s really about supporting the person where they are right now, while they are still living. And through a legacy project of – that’s a celebration of life, creating a transition room for them to be in as they go through the dying process. It’s also getting – it hasn’t – the – my book has information in it of all the documents that you need or wanna think about and – in preparing for – for the death, so it can be the most peaceful, serene experience possible.

 

Jenn:

Oh, that – what a wonderful resource, Susan, because I know that, when death approaches, whether it is sudden or not, I think we … lose our heads a little bit, even though we – we know, innately, that it’s coming, right?

 

Susan:

Exactly. ….

 

Jenn:

I love that your book is a resource for that.

 

Susan:

Thank you. It – it – it’s that it also helps – I think there’s so much grief we go through even before the person dies, that –

 

Jenn:

Oh, yeah.

 

Susan:

– we need support within – … the medical community is great with taking care of all the medical needs, but there’s very little support for the emotion needs.

 

Jenn:

Right.

 

Susan:

Which is where the doula piece comes in, is to really support the family member and the dying per – person through that process, being there one hundred percent for them.

 

Jenn:

Well, then, I would imagine that the types of grief that either a caregiver or family member has is probably distinct and different than the grief that’s being experienced by the person who’s dying, right?

 

Susan:

Exactly. And many times, because we don’t speak about death or – death’s always – … we can’t talk about that –

 

Jenn:

Right!

 

Susan:

– the person who’s dying has just as much of a need to talk about it but is afraid to because they don’t want their loved one to feel bad, and so, the more … – the more the loved one can really embrace death and what it means, that then allows the dying person to have the conversation and to talk about their fears and/or their hopes … and what their experiences are, or … and it makes – just to have the conversation can be so – such a gift of love in and of itself.

 

Jenn:

…. Yes! And it – and it’s – feels – even just listening to you talk about the process, it feels very healing.

 

Susan:

It definitely is, and – because we don’t know, … we think we know when, a lot of times, too, our beliefs – or how we believe can – so, there’s contradict or not be in the belief system of the other person, and it’s a way to just be accepting and respectful and not feel that one way is better than the other, but always a possible. ….

 

Jenn:

Oh, that makes so much sense. So, how did you come up with this topic, Susan? Have you – how long have you been acting as an end-of-life doula and how did – how did you even come to this work?

 

Susan:

So, I started off – it was really … interesting, just a – ad in the paper looking for hospice volunteers and hospice training, and so it was through that process – I did that, and then had a client and they offered the end-of-life doula training, and I don’t have a fear of death myself, ‘cause I don’t think it’s the ending, I think it’s just the – another way of living, once we come out of the physical body.

 

Jenn:

Right.

 

Susan:

So, I found that, because I don’t have the fear, I was – I’m able to be with people where they’re at in their process. And it’s that, with different – people have experienced their bodies leaving the physical realm and just an amazing experience, I’ve seen that it has happened in places … in an ICU, where it’s very cold and the person is dressed very – just in a hospital gown and very thin blankets, just not peaceful or serene and that it can be done differently, …, that we can have music and create just a much nicer space for the person that’s dying and for the family members, and it just can be more personal, so through this, I just saw a need for education and just starting this whole process and knowing that it can be something other, and allowing … to know that as well.

 

Jenn:

Well – I – I – it is so important, Susan, because we all die or ex – will experience death in our lifetime.

 

Susan:

Exactly.

 

Jenn:

So, it is a – it is a unifying event that will happen to every one of us on this planet.

 

Susan:

Exactly, and – and so, this – we know that there is alternatives, … just because it’s this way doesn’t mean that that’s the way it has to be, the more we say, “Well, I wanna bring in pictures,” or “I wanna bring in a favorite lamp,” or “Can’t we put them in their favorite pajamas?” Wherever they are, whether they’re in hospital room, nursing home, wherever, those things are available, they – you can ask to have that happen.

 

Jenn:

Oh, wow, that –

 

Susan:

If that’s what’s really important.

 

Jenn:

That is, and it’s – it embraces out – each of our individuality, right? And how we want to spend those last moments.

 

Susan:

Exactly, and even – they found that hearing is the last sense to leave the body.

 

Jenn:

Oh!

 

Susan:

So, having music playing, instead of – … filling someone up – up with drugs can create a lot of adverse effects, having music playing in the background, somebody reading a favorite poem, even creating visual … can change all of the breathing and the struggle and just – there’s a – a serenity and a peacefulness that happens with all of that.

 

Jenn:

Wow, I didn’t know that, that’s fascinating, that – that hearing is the – is what they believe to be the last sense to leave our bodies?

 

Susan:

Yes. Yup, that even though we appear to be unconscious we can still hear everything around us.

 

Jenn:

Oh, wow! So, sometimes that means that those last words that you offer to your loved ones … they can hear it and – and maybe that is a real healing place for the person who’s speaking to be in.

 

Susan:

Exactly. And to know that what you say does really matter and that’s what – that importance of having that space for the person that’s dying to be comfortable, but also for the people that come into the room, to really know it is a sacred space that they’re sitting in, and whatever the feelings were, they get left at the door and you’re just there one hundred percent with that person can create just a – a bond that carries both through their years. ….

 

Jenn:

Uh. So wonderful. So wonderful. How did you decide – or, why did you decide to write a book? … you were obviously doing this work and bringing this healing into the world, why a book?

 

Susan:

Very good question, very good question. It’s just certain – I’m somewhat spiritual, well, very spiritual and … just look for signs that come into my world, similar to what hospice did and it just seemed – there was another author piece that I had done and it just seemed like it needed to – something needed to get written and into the world, and so, it was – the process I started and then found again Angela’s program through this – not even looking for it. So that then resonated and it was … “Okay, now this can be a reality.” And I think, too, it gives me the credibility, so one of my goals is to create a transition room in every hospital, nursing home, care facility, and so a book gives you – gives me that credibility that I – I may know what I am talking about.

 

Jenn:

You’ve definitely know what you’re talking about, but I know what you mean, there is a certain gravitas that’s attached to being an author, isn’t there?

 

Susan:

Absolutely.

 

Jenn:

Have you found that people have treated you differently or that you’ve had different opportunities that have come up since you’ve written the book?

 

Susan:

I think there’s more of – … for me, then, within my own being, there’s a different confidence, that I have the book and I have something that if, … – I’m speaking to someone, or if someone has some questions, it’s … “Oh, my gosh, I addressed this in Chapter 3, let me get – … let me send you the link for my e-book so you can read that. ….”

 

Jenn:

I see.

 

Susan:

So, it’s a nice point of reference for people, too, so that’s changed. More – a broader perspective, I feel like. ….

 

Jenn:

Oh, that’s wonderful, and … maybe because death is the type of topic where we – societally, we don’t talk about it very much, I wonder if having a book makes it a little easier for your audience to … digest your messages, because they can do it on their own – in their own speed, their own time.

 

Susan:

Exactly. I believe that’s right, and even though it is a book based on death, it is really based on living … in the moment, too, so this helps people see the … – the flow of both, … we have the flow of life into the flow of death and then flows back into life.

 

Jenn:

Right.

 

Susan:

… different perspective and understanding, and it’s – it’s written in a very gentle way, I feel like? So … someone’s just sitting with a good friend and they’re going through a process. ….

 

Jenn:

Which, when we’re – when we’re going through a grief process like that, that’s – I think what a lot of people crave, isn’t it? A really good friend who will sit with them and just hold space for whatever they’re feeling.

 

Susan:

Exactly. That’s really ….

 

Jenn:

How wonderful – right! So, how wonderful that you’ve put a written … book out into the world that will serve as that friend to people who are really suffering, that’s wonderful.

 

Susan:

Thank you.

 

Jenn:

Thank you, that’s – that’s – I’m glad that you came to us and that you are willing to share your expertise. Did you find writing the book to be difficult, though? Because there are – I know you’re not unafraid of death and you’ve had a lot of experience with teaching people how to face it, but did you find putting that in writing to be difficult?

 

Susan:

There were times where I wasn’t sure how to get the – the certain message across, or – or how I wanted to phrase it or – or be in it, or that it would even have enough, there were some chapters that started … very short. And then, I knew it needed to expand, and actually through this process of writing to an individual, or an ideal reader, made it so much easier than – for me, initially, when I was trying to write without having any kind of mentor, I was writing for …, and this was much easier, to write to a person. And then, know, through writing to the person, I would … reach many people.

 

Jenn:

… that – for anyone listening, that – that doesn’t – isn’t familiar with the process, that Angela Lauria – Lauria, who is the Author Incubator and – and the founder of our company, part of her Difference Process is that the idea of writing a book is all fine and well, but that it really needs to be a love letter to one person, right? And that’s what Susan’s talking about here, that – that you have … a person in mind, right, Susan? Did you write out who that person was?

 

Susan:

Yes. I’ve – have a few friends who are g – and myself, as well, actually, going through – … having an elderly parent and knowing that, at some point, they are gonna pass and not really knowing what their wishes are and how to have those conversations, and so it really helped me to find what I would want for myself, and so, once I knew what I wanted, I could then say to them, “Oh, … I know my … end of life is gonna come and these are the wishes I have, … what are you thinking about? What – what do you envision having in your life,” and it’s amazing just h – how seamless it can be into having their conversations, so, it was really myself, my generation and … someone in their fifties and sixties who is going through that with elderly parents.

 

Jenn:

Right.

 

Susan:

And wanting to have that … seamless transition without the regrets, the “I wish I did / why didn’t I do this” … I think is so important.

 

Jenn:

It is, and that makes sense, and what’s interesting about the ideal reader is, … you had an image of someone, yourself, your friends, in your mind, while you were writing the book, but I suspect that there are many people who don’t fit that exact profile that your book has really helped.

 

Susan:

That’s true, wouldn’t be the exact, it may be … a family member that is – where someone just got diagnosed with a terminal illness and be it that – that person, unfortunately, was a child, … middle age or old age, … it’s a way to help … them also through their own process of celebrating the life while they’re right here and preparing for how they want their end-of-life to look like. So, it does expand to reach that group as well, and hopefully, even us baby boomers who … be experiencing death at some point to say, “Oh, wait a minute, I can make sure I have all these things in place for myself.” ….

 

Jenn:

Ah, that’s a really good point! Yeah, that – the book doesn’t have – your book doesn’t have to be read in the exact moment of grief, it can be read in preparation for what will inevitably happen to all of us.

 

Susan:

Exactly. ….

 

Jenn:

Hm, that makes a lotta sense. Did you find, while you were writing – did you have writer’s block or any difficulty, other than knowing you … needed to expand some chapters or anything like that?

 

Susan:

They were … – when I found, early on, … – and this is one of the great things that Angela has us do, too, is to set aside a certain amount of time every week, … and within that week, to take a coupla days, and then set aside a couple of hours within those coupla days. And so, I felt like she did really set me up for success, so I could create – I did it on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and it was two hours each day and I had a ritual where I would just have a can – a special candle that I would only light for that writing, I had a special pen I used … start – is all written longhand, and then I would put in the computer, … –

 

Jenn:

Oh, wow!

 

Susan:

– special pen, paper, the atmosphere, and then, when I found that nothing was coming I would get up, I would blow the candle out, get up, walk away, do something other than – maybe put music on, relight the candle and then sit down and everything would flow, so I just allowed – allowed for whatever was to come to happen and not – try not to give it any judgement or get down on myself for it and having Angela’s support and the support of – I think there were twelve other of us authors that were going through the process at the same time. So, having support, knowing that we weren’t the only ones feeling a certain way or that we’re having writer’s block made a huge difference.

 

Jenn:

That makes so much sense, … we get a lot of applicants that are reticent about the group aspects of working with the Author Incubator, and what I’m hearing you say is that you found that to be one of the more rewarding parts of it.

 

Susan:

Absolutely. … I – I found it to – it – … brought it from – ‘cause writing is a very secular piece of life, very solitary, but to know it – whatever process you’re in, whatever emotions you’re feeling – ‘cause it’s very vulnerable to actually put words that come from your head on paper and then have someone else read them. So, brings up a whole host of emotions, and knowing I wasn’t the only one feeling a certain way and could have the empathy of others made a big difference that I wasn’t alone.

 

Jenn:

And isn’t it funny that … we all go through … that same emotional process, whether we’re writing a book with a new outlook on death or a book on how to be a good businessperson.

 

Susan:

… definitely, it’s – it’s something about putting – putting pen to paper and knowing that other people are gonna read … your inner – your inner self.

 

Jenn:

Yes.

 

Susan:

That can be vulnerable.

 

Jenn:

Well, speaking of pen to paper, what did you do with the longhand version of your book? Do you still have it?

 

Susan:

…. Yes, I do. ….

 

Jenn:

What are you going to do with it? Anything? Or do you have another special drawer, or – … I’m just trying to imagine what it looks like, because that sounds so fancy.

 

Susan:

Actually, it’s in – I have a – a special Angela – pink Angela notebook, … a … binder.

 

Jenn:

…. I love it.

 

Susan:

And so, … in the back of that, and my pen of choice is a purple – purple ink pen, so it all … ties in.

 

Jenn:

That is so fantastic, Susan, I have – I don’t believe I have spoken to an author that’s written out their book longhand while they were doing it, that’s amazing.

 

Susan:

It was really – … I just felt like I was more in the flow for me, doing it that way, and then – one of Angela’s things is to keep her – mantras, I think, is to keep writing forward.

 

Jenn:

Yes.

 

Susan:

And so, when I found that, when I had to put it in the computer, I would then edit at that point.

 

Jenn:

Oh!

 

Susan:

… I would go back to read the chapter, make some notes on the longhand version, but then I could do … a diff – a – another editing when I was typing it into the computer. So, it was fascinating, that way, too.

 

Jenn:

…. No, it is, not only is that fascinating, but what a nice way for you to … really sit down and – and put out all of the emotion and all of the information that you need, and then go back later and be able to organize it.

 

Susan:

Yes. Exactly. ….

 

Jenn:

Right. That makes so much sense.

 

Susan:

… thank you, and I’m – I – I – I do type well on a computer, but if I relied on that, I wouldn’t have had that feeling of “keep writing forward” because I’d go back and I’d be, “Oh, did I spell that right,” or … “Did that sentence make sense?” where … this longhand, it’s just – to me, it’s more of in the – in the flow, and so it just was easier to keep going.

 

Jenn:

Well – and talk about really being able to really get into the persona of writing a love letter, … we – you don’t type a love letter, you write a love letter, right?

 

Susan:

Exactly. ….

 

Jenn:

That’s fantastic. So, tell me, did you get hand cramps? That’s the real question. ….

 

Susan:

Not – actually, not really, at all. … I even – I’ll write some blogs that are on my website, and those are all done longhand, too, I just – it’s just where my – guess that inner – my inner author comes out more in pen paper versus on computer.

 

Jenn:

Yes, and – and I think that’s really important to note, Susan, is that you found a way to connect with your inner author and you followed that ritual and that guidance the whole time, and that’s why you were able to finish your book, I think.

 

Susan:

Absolutely. Yes, I think that did definitely help with not having as much writer’s block, I could definitely see, if I was sitting in front of the computer, I would just go blank.

 

Jenn:

Right.

 

Susan:

… for me, that – that point was, the longhand made a difference.

 

Jenn:

Well, Susan, for anybody who’s listening who wants to … know some more about you or – or listen to more of your talks, where – where can they find you?

 

Susan:

So, they could find me at – modernoutlooks.com is my website, that I have some blogs posted, and that has my contact information, I’m of – my e-mail is [email protected], they want to send me an e-mail personally, that’s really the – my best way. And they can also, I think –

 

Jenn:

Wonderful, do you – yeah, video … talks or … phone calls or anything, or is – is just reaching out via e-mail the best way for people to learn more from you?

 

Susan:

So, reaching out by e-mail, I am currently putting together a landing page that would have – they can get a – access a free copy of my book.

 

Jenn:

Great!

 

Susan:

Also, anyone – I’m looking … – I offer free calls to help through the grief process, of either when someone has died or going through how to be with the person while they’re still alive, before they’ve died, so I offer help with that, support, so that they can be empowered, ‘cause a lot of times what I’ve found is the family members, who’s actually the ideal reader, is just – they feel helpless, they don’t know how to support their person, they don’t know what comes next, there’s stress involved, so I’m – I offer a phone call to help them work through all that and support them in this process, and – to really help them embrace the life right now and be prepared for the death.

 

Jenn:

What a gift. What a gift that you offer that for free, Susan, that is so wonderful, because … when – when you’re in that moment, you … can’t see the forest for the trees without some help.

 

Susan:

Exactly. And the medical field can be so – they’re – they need to do what they do, but they could be so overwhelming, also that – you – then, it’s … “I need emotional support,” ….

 

Jenn:

Yes!

 

Susan:

And that’s what I’m providing, … you’ve got your medical doctors and then – that’s one of the things with the end-of-life doulas, or myself provide, is that emotional support on – hand-holding through this process.

 

Jenn:

That’s – that’s – that’s fantastic, … we talk, at the Author Incubator, about birthing your book, and … maybe Angela might be … a book doula, but you are a doula for life, in many ways, not death, right?

 

Susan:

Yes, thank you, I’d – I feel that way, I – … just to have someone you know is there for your emotional support and caring and – and can allow you to be present with your feelings so that you could be present for your dying one’s feelings, it’s just – it’s … we’re all a mini community working together for all our support. ….

 

Jenn:

Wow.

 

Susan:

It’s – it’s beautiful to – I’ve witnessed it a couple of times, and it’s just amazing how families can shift on the smallest of things, knowing that they can create … a – a scrapbook that they can then share with their loved ones where they didn’t have communication before. … creating a special room with favorite things in it, that they might not have thought about because you – you’re so involved in just the day-to-day caring that sometimes we do lose sight of that bigger picture.

 

Jenn:

Right! And – and I think if you don’t deal with it at the time, then all of those emotions are going to come back and resurface later at an even less convenient time, right?

 

Susan:

Exactly. Yeah, the emotions always wanna come back, one way or another, so it’s – … if you can create that nice memories, and then the celebration, things you’re gonna do, and that … first birthday, the first … anniversary of the death, that first anniversary, first Christmas, there’s all of those, but if you – you set up things for success so that they’re an honoring instead of a – a grieving, if you will.

 

Jenn:

Yes.

 

Susan:

And it’s always gonna be done with some sadness, but you can make it more of an honoring.

 

Jenn:

Susan, I am so sad, we’ve just been chatting and we’re down to only a minute left, I can’t believe it! I could talk to you all day about this!

 

Susan:

Thank you, I appreciate that.

 

Jenn:

Well, thank you for being on the show, and anyone who wants to find Susan, you can find her at modernoutlooks.com or shoot her an e-mail, [email protected], but more importantly, go to Amazon right now and look up A Graceful Goodbye and download it, because even if you’re not in the midst of a grief process, you’re gonna want this book and you’re gonna want the information that Susan shared so that you can be prepared. And if you’re in the middle of that grief process, let Susan help you through it. Look her up online, download her book, Susan, thank you so much.

 

Susan:

Thank you very much, Jenn, I appreciate this time.

 

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