Q. Ruth Owen: Why did you write your book ‘In Search of You’?
A. Patsy: Well, I wasn’t planning on writing a book. After my daughter Jasmine died in 2013, I found reaching for a pen and writing down how I was feeling, incredibly comforting. I did this maybe 2 or 3 times a week and felt so much lighter afterwards, so I just carried on doing this. A friend suggested later on that I write a book as it would help a lot of people. So the seed was sown.
Q. Ruth: Did you start writing your book when Jasmine was still alive and going through the process of suffering from cancer?
A. Patsy: No, when Jasmine was ill I wrote about how I was feeling, which of course was about her. Then after she died I wrote directly to her in letter-form.
Q. Ruth: What made you choose the title ‘In Search of You’?
A. Patsy: Well…..I needed to know where my daughter was. I’d heard of an afterlife and believed in something far greater than we experience on earth. I needed some sort of evidence that she really hadn’t just disappeared, that her soul was very much in life. I was searching for her, quite literally.
Q. Ruth: Well, we’ll come on to what happened after Jasmine died, but I wanted you to start off by telling us a bit about Jasmine. What was she like?
A. Patsy: Well, she was very sensitive….a bit of a prickly hedgehog at times. And like so many sensitive people , she was creative, artistic. I’ve got a lovely painting on my wall of an eagle – a birthday present from her – and she painted it on wood that wasn’t smooth. She liked to use things exactly as she found them and then bring it into the home or a garden. She was thoughtful and as stubborn as anything. I don’t know where she gets that from!!
Ruth: And she was incredibly creative; she sang, she wrote, danced, she planted in the garden…..
Patsy: Yes, all of those things. And I think she found it quite challenging being here, like so many empaths – sensitive people.
Q. Ruth: And yet there are times in the book, in the first half of the book when she’s still alive and dealing with cancer, when you feel very much on the outside. Indeed, you said, “you are retreating into yourself and I can’t reach you there.” Why do you think she pushed you away?
A. Patsy: I’ve asked myself this question a number of times…..and all I can say is that she was a very private person. Somebody said to me, ‘maybe she didn’t want you to witness her dying, to spare you.’ And that’s a possibility. The possibility of dying was never broached…People die in their own way. Jasmine didn’t think she would die, and she asked the Consultant not to talk about dying with her. You’ve asked a very tricky question. I know that she loved me; it’s not that she didn’t love me. Gosh.
Q. Ruth: It’s so heart-breaking and poignant the way you describe it….you did say, ‘there was always a reason for you to push me away. And you felt an outsider. How difficult was that to deal with, knowing she wasn’t getting any better, and yet she wouldn’t talk to you about it?
A. Patsy: I do know that a number of people when they are seriously ill and dying do not want to talk about it. There’s so much fear surrounding death, dying, grief and grieving that they remain very tricky subjects for so many of us. I found comfort when Jasmine was admitted to the hospice, which was only for a month before she died, in the chapel (only four walls away from her). I’d write her a little prayer on the memo board, which we were encouraged to do. And I’d talk to the chaplain quite often, and he would tell me how she is. Yes, it was a very painful time and I did feel an outsider, definitely.
Q. Ruth: I’m guessing there are many, many people perhaps listening now who also feel kind of removed and separate from their loved ones who may be in the process of dying. What would you say to people who are unable to talk to their loved ones?
A. Patsy: Well, we are all connected energetically, and particularly with family members. Even just thinking about a good friend, or somebody who you know is struggling. they receive your thoughts energetically. You may even get a phone call from them. There are so many instances of the power and synchronicity of this energy connection between us. Any listener who may is unable to visit a loved one because of the pandemic, send your love and thoughts. They will receive it. It would of course be so lovely to have physical contact, but know that you are linking with them.
Q. Ruth: In the first half of the book, you write about the energy weekend you and Jasmine went on. You had different partners. One person in each pair was blindfolded and then had to go and find her partner in the room. Each time Jasmine came and found you.
A. Patsy: Yes, there were 12 of us doing this. The others just stopped what they were doing, took off their blindfolds and watched, because it was such evidence of the power of connection between close family members, particularly a mother and her child, who she bears in her womb. It took our breath away! It was the most perfect example of the energy connection between us.
Q. Ruth: After Jasmine died, there were several instances where you feel her presence. Would you like to explain those. They are really beautiful moments.
A. Patsy: Oh, I’ll never forget four months after Jasmine died. I used to make a cup of tea in the morning, light a candle by her photo, and sit and send my love to her, talk to her inwardly. On this particular morning, the light in the room changed and I felt tingling all round my head and shoulders. It just felt like there was a presence around me, a very soft loving presence. And then I felt a light brush across my cheek, my face, as if I had been brushed by some magical energy. It was so profound. I sat there with tears just rolling down my face.
Q. Ruth: That’s so beautiful. That wasn’t the only occasion, was it?
A. Patsy: There were several other occasions. It’s wonderful the way we can link up with a deceased person in Spirit. You can’t necessarily see them….but you can often feel them. And if you can’t feel them, it doesn’t mean they are not there.
Q. Ruth: And how long did that go on for?
A. Patsy: It continued for 18 months in different ways. Sometimes a picture of Jasmine’s would just fall off the wall for no reason. And then another one . At one point she started making the lamp flash in my sitting room, and it was usually when I was feeling sad. She was making contact. These signs, Ruth, continued for all those months, not every day by any means, and then they suddenly stopped. I was beside myself with what felt like another huge loss. Then one day I was on a bus coming back from town. It was wet, cold and I was miserable, and I just thought how am I going to carry on now without these signs from my daughter? And then I got this beautiful, strong, fragrance of jasmine. I thought people on the bus would surely be able to smell it…..but clearly they weren’t! I said inwardly, ‘oh Jasmine, please send me your fragrance just one more time. Please, so I really know it’s you.’ And then it came again, that beautiful fragrance of jasmine.
Q. Ruth: Yes, it is gorgeous. I’ve experienced that as well. I was with a friend in Cyprus and we went out for dinner. We were nowhere near any vegetation or flowers and he was telling me about his mother who died when he was 16 under very tragic circumstances. We were talking about her and all of a sudden I smelt the jasmine. I said to him, ‘Can you smell the jasmine?’ ‘Oh yes, I can smell it too’!
A. Patsy: Well, Ruth I had a dream that night. It was a very soft dream in which I was told that I can really rest assured that Jasmine is with me, a part of me, and that I don’t need any more signs from her. Mind you I would have loved a few more! Every now and then I still feel her presence very close to me….Without that sense of something greater, that soul presence, I think it would be even more painful going through a bereavement.
Q. Ruth: Given the fact that you felt like an outsider with Jasmine in which she would refuse to talk to you about her feelings and the inevitability of her dying, how did you process that at the time? You must have felt angry and desperate.
A. Patsy: Yes, I felt a failure as a mother. And as so often happens, guilt kicked in. Guilt that I hadn’t done enough, that I had somehow said or done the wrong thing. All these thoughts came tumbling in. Yes, it was very difficult. And anger…that came up later. The anger was actually very liberating….I took it off to the lake not far from here, and just stamped my feet and howled and wailed, and felt so much better afterwards. Yeah…..
Q. Ruth: I think there will be many people out there who feel very restricted as they can’t express their love for the loved ones they are apart from. How do you advise people to process that feeling of hopelessness?
A. Patsy: Yes, I have two close friends who are unable to visit their mothers in their homes…..sometimes a skype call can be arranged…send a letter or card and express your feelings for them. They too will be feeling helpless.
Q. Ruth: It’s such a difficult situation for so many people. Many feel the guilt as well. Not being able to be there and hold their hand.
A. Patsy Yes, and honouring these feelings, meeting them when they arise, is important. It is allowing these feelings, not getting lost in them, feeling them in your body,….that is how they will eventually dissolve.So allow them, meet the feelings, rather than push them away… ideally with a trusted friend.….as we need someone to listen to us. We don’t necessarily need words, though we might need a hug. We need to know we are not bonkers for what we are feeling, because we are not.
Q. Ruth: There are some cultures and countries in the world, that deal with death and the death process, very differently to ours. We are particularly bad in the UK I think about facing death and dealing with it. Talk to us about the indigenous people, because you’ve spent time with indigenous tribes haven’t you?
A. Patsy: Yes, I was very fortunate during a trip to Ecuador to be invited to stay with the Shuar tribe for 2 weeks. One of the mothers had lost her child just over a year ago. Every so often they have grief ceremonies, and the word goes out, I’m not sure how……and they come from quite a distance to gather together on a sacred piece of clearing. And there is a ceremony, which I was privileged to attend. I didn’t understand what they were saying, but I certainly got the feel and measure of how they honour the grief of their own people, and also throughout the world. So many of us are sitting on unresolved grief. And this may come up in all kinds of ways. The indigenous see grieving as a sacred rite of passage; so personal grieving is honoured and supported. If it’s a woman grieving, she will be supported by other women, and the man by other men. They know the profundity , the enormity of grieving, and the gifts that come from it.
Q. Ruth: What a lovely way to deal with grief. We all suffer from grief, yet some of us don’t process it, which is a problem.
A. Patsy: And when that happens and the grief is pushed back into the body, the body accumulates all kinds of little blockages. And that doesn’t help our health – our emotional, physical wellbeing.
Q. Ruth: Patsy, talk to us about the physical process of grief in the body and what we can do to address it.
A. Patsy: Well, that’s a very big question, Ruth. How it affects the body is a good place to start. I work with individuals who are grieving, and it comes out in the body in all kinds of ways. I’m thinking of a mother I’m working with whose daughter died very suddenly…..she had a terrible pain in her heart. I remember that very well myself and feeling concerned about it. It’s heartbreak. The heart is breaking and it’s a physical sensation in the centre of the heart. It does repair. The heart does eventually mend.…
Q. Ruth: How do you address it?
A. Patsy: The first thing is to place a hand on your heart and instinctively that is comforting. I’m doing it now, and I just want to rub it gently and comfort my body. The other thing is actually talking to the body and saying aloud ‘it’s alright. We’re going to come through this together.’ And another thing is breathing….The emotions often come in great big waves through the body. This is quite normal and then they fade and leave. They can feel like tsunami waves with deep grief. If you can be present with the wave, and breathe through it, then it can be a bit like surfing a wave.
Q. Ruth: Talk to us about the breathing.
A. Patsy: So as well as with the hand over the heart, I would suggest taking some very slow, deep breaths. We could do 3 or 4 now if you like……notice your shoulders first. Give them a shake out. We’re going to breathe in for about a count of 6. I’ll count you through it. Breathing in….and slowly breathing out….again counting inwardly for 6. When you’re ready take another deep breath in, you may want to close your eyes….and a long, slow breath out. Do this again. Just notice how you’re feeling. If the pain of the deep hurt comes up you may not be able to sustain those long, slow breaths…. so you begin breathing more quickly. Go with it and then return to the deeper breathing when you can. This is about feeling, allowing, breathing, and reassuring your body with your hand on your heart.
Q. Ruth: That’s a really calming exercise to do even if you’re not recovering from grief. If you don’t process the grief and all the emotions that come up, what happens to the body?
A. Patsy : That’s a very interesting question and of course everybody is different. That particular breathing will help to prevent the feelings getting stuck. So even if you really don’t want to grieve, and let’s face it, some people have very busy days and they just haven’t got the time , or they are frightened about grieving and don’t want to feel the pain of it, that slow breathing will dissolve some of the grief from the body. We don’t want the grief remaining stuck because it can cause things like headaches, back pain, stomach cramps, aches in the body….
Q. Ruth: And if somebody’s feeling angry, or in despair, how do they deal with those kind of emotions?
A. Patsy: You probably won’t feel anger and despair together, so it’ll be one or the other. Despair is the trickiest feeling of all I think. It’s like you don’t necessarily even want to live. There doesn’t seem much point. And what my clients really want to know is ‘have I reached the bottom of my well? Is this as far as I’m going to go?’ And I can usually tell from how they are if this is the case. There’s nothing wrong with you if you are feeling like this. I can’t imagine anyone who has not experienced this at some point in their lives. It’s not nice. You will move through it…what I do advise people is to record somewhere, maybe in a diary, when that dive down into the despair happened….what day it was. Record when these occasions come again. What you normally find is that the space between these times begins to lengthen. Make a note of it. Track it. Return to the deep breathing when you can.
Q. Ruth: It took you a few years to come to terms with Jasmine’s death, didn’t it?
A. Patsy: People do say 5 years, or 4 years for processing deep grief. I don’t like to put a time on this. However, if you are grieving and allowing it to move through you, then you will reach a place of inner peace. That’s not to say you won’t ever feel sad, but it won’t last nearly as long as it has in the past. You will feel much more alive because you are feeling and allowing everything. The joy is greater. Happiness is greater.
Q. Ruth: Interestingly in the book, you say ‘grief is a gift. And that it is a fast track back to life. That’s an amazing thing to say.
A. Patsy: It is quite a powerful statement isn’t it? Intellectually, academically, I knew that if I followed the feelings and allowed myself to move through grief, and meet the dark night of the soul on several occasions, that something profound would happen. The poet Rumi invites to allow in the guests waiting for us at the door because of a profound experience that is going to come from this. When we are children, we don’t necessarily feel safe enough to feel the painful feelings, and nobody encourages us to feel them, so we learn to push them away….to freeze the feelings. We have emotional blocks in our body from a very young age. What I found through grieving was that I wasn’t just grieving for my daughter…I was actually releasing these blockages in my body that had been there since my childhood. It was like dominoes….my body is lighter inside. I giggle more. It’s extraordinary. Of course I get fed up or sad at times….I’m not particularly enjoying this lockdown….but grieving was a gift for me. Of that I have no doubt.
Q. Ruth: That’s such a positive view about what is a difficult experience for so many people. It’s interesting that it released this pent up emotion that had been in you for a very long time I’m guessing.
A. Patsy: Yes, definitely. I’m an elder now, a grandmother, and my generation – particularly in this culture – and as a woman, a girl growing up….there’s still a message of not being seen or heard. For a child that is deeply painful not to feel you are being seen or heard. It’s very much part of my generation, but it’s still present unfortunately. So that has been freed in me. I’ve made myself apparent in my book. I’ve opened myself up. It’s such a relief to feel so light and free.
Q. Ruth: Well, it’s an incredibly brave process to go through and put your grief out there in the public domain. And to talk about your daughter, because many people expect to lose their parents, but not their child. Is there any difference in the grief do you think between the two?
A. Patsy: Definitely. Both my parents died, my mother the year before Jasmine was diagnosed with cancer. It’s a strange feeling when the second parent dies. My brother said ‘I feel an orphan.’ That was a very apt word to use. But when a child dies it obviously goes against the natural order of events. The link with a child who has been in your womb, the connection with that child, is so profound,it’s almost indescribable the feelings, the sensations, the grief, the guilt, the everything that comes when a child dies.
Q. Ruth: And yet you turned it into a positive force for good and you have liberated yourself in so many ways.
A. Patsy: Yes, I have, and I would love that to be understood more, that there’s nothing to be ashamed of. Feelings those feelings is based in love. Love for a job that you may have lost; there may be grief for the sense of loss when your children leave home – though not always! Grief marks loss, and loss comes to us in so many different forms throughout life. Life is punctuated by loss, and then hopefully new beginnings and directions come from it. So to push it away…there’s something so profound in life about loss and grief. There’s beauty in it and it brings us closer together if we will allow it to.
Q. Ruth: Yes, it’s part of the human process.And if we didn’t have it we wouldn’t appreciate the good times and good moments.
A. Patsy: Yes, that’s nice to hear you say that.
Q. Ruth: So Patsy, you help people process their grief. How do people find you?
A. Patsy: They find me from reading the book ‘In Search of You’, which can be ordered from my website at www.patsyfreeman.com. They also hear about me word of mouth. I don’t advertise. It’s an organic process.
Q. Ruth: So if anybody wanted to contact you, you’re available to help them through the process.
A. Patsy: Yes, I love seeing people one to one, which at the moment is socially distanced, and I work from home in Gloucestershire, England. I can also work on skype.
Q. Ruth: Well, that’s good to hear, because I’m sure there are many people who would like to have your assistance in processing their feelings of grief and loss.
A. Patsy: Yes. And there are some wonderful organisations out there who offer support, such as Cruse.
Q. Ruth: I’d like to thank you so much for joining us today, Patsy. It’s been really wonderful talking to you. And I’m thoroughly enjoying your beautifully written book.
A, Patsy: Thank you Ruth. I’ve really enjoyed talking to you too.