Elaine Mansfield: Rituals after a Spouse-Loss

Drs. Gloria and Heidi Horsley interview Elaine Mansfield during this episode of the Open to Hope Foundation show. Mansfield is an Open to Hope author and Jungian student of over 40 years. After losing her husband, she embarked on a personal journey for hope, healing and recovery. She met her husband when she was 21 and he was 25. Both were students. “We sort of grew up together,” she said, recalling their Vietnam rallying during their years at Cornell. Avid yogis, meditators and psychology students, “we kind of grew together and created ourselves as adults together,” she says.

Mansfield lost her father at a young age, and she says she saw how she related to her husband’s death as similar to how her mother reacted. “My mom wanted to keep it secret…to protect the kids. But of course we weren’t protected, we were just frightened,” she says. Mansfield delves deeper into this subject in her TED talk and numerous publications. When her husband was diagnosed, they were sitting in a parking lot. At that moment, she knew she didn’t want to repeat history and made a conscious effort to get support during his illness—and after he passed.

Fighting the Reaction to Retreat

“We stayed open with each other, our family and community throughout his illness,” she says. There were times she was tempted to hide her sorrow, but Mansfield knew that wasn’t the answer. In Mansfield’s TED talk, she showed her husband’s body at the funeral. Dr. Gloria says it was a positive move, and an homage to how funerals and memorials were held in the past for hundreds of years. Her husband was ultimately cremated, and his cremation box was filled with mementos as an innovative ritual.

“It was all symbolic,” says Mansfield, and notes that the ritual was “very healing for my sons and me.” Find out more about Mansfield’s thoughts on ritual and healing in her publications or in her TED talk.

 

Elaine Mansfield

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Elaine Mansfield’s memoir ‘Leaning into Love: A Spiritual Journey through Grief’ (2014) won the 2015 Gold Medal IPPY Award (Independent Publisher’s Book Awards) in the category Aging, Death, and Dying. Elaine gave a well-received TEDx talk called “Good Grief! What I Learned from Loss.” The talk is available under her name at Youtube.com. She has also read excerpts from her book on NPR’s Author’s Corner. Elaine writes for hospice, facilitates bereavement support groups, and gives workshops and presentations in many locations. She writes with a perspective that reflects her hospice training as well as 40 years as a student of philosophy, psychology, mythology, and meditation. She also writes a weekly blog (http://elainemansfield.com/blog/) about the adventures and lessons of life and loss. To learn more about Elaine’s work, please visit her website at http://elainemansfield.com.

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