Sudbury psychotherapist encourages open conversations about death

Betty Ann McPherson’s life got pretty dark several years ago when her daughter got sick and died of cancer.

Death Cafe held in Sudbury on Monday

Betty Ann McPherson sits with her daughter, Robin in June 2006. Her daughter died later that year from cancer. (Supplied/Betty Ann McPherson)

Betty Ann McPherson's life got pretty dark several years ago when her daughter got sick and died of cancer.

"I was sure that once her life was over, my life would be over," she said.

"For a time, it really did feel like that."

But over time, the registered psychotherapist realized she was given the gift of life, something her daughter Robin would have wanted.

"It's my place to live the life that my daughter never had the opportunity to live," she said.

"I continue to look through the world with her eyes and look at life anew."

Her daughter was only 14 at the time and McPherson was with her when she died.

"Although it's been some of the most painful experiences of my life, it's also been the most transitional experiences of my life too," she said.

"Losing someone is not just about sadness and loss. It's also about connection and continuing in life and love that pulls us through."

'A privilege'

McPherson took part in Sudbury's first Death Cafe on Monday. The idea is to have a place where people can share their thoughts and even fears about death in a safe space.

"It's not necessarily an environment where you're going to be crying the whole time, you're going to be sharing your joys of life and death, all at the same time," she explained.

McPherson says in general, society is focused on staying young, and death can seem like a scary topic to face.

"There's a lot of fear about getting older [and] there's a lot of fear about sickness," she said.

"I think that we're a death denying culture because we're a culture that's caught up in fear, fear of things that we do not know."

As for how she approaches death now, McPherson says she has a different perspective. Recently her mother and aunt both died.

"I was present at both of their deaths," she explained.

"It's a privilege to be a part of that passage in someone's life and to make it as comfortable as possible."

With files from Jan Lakes


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