Lynne Ann DeSpelder: The Last Dance

The Director of the Open to Hope Foundation, Dr. Heidi Horsley, interviews author Lynne Anne DeSpelder. A counselor and psychology professor, DeSpelder wrote The Last Dance: Encountering Death and Dying after years of studying the bereavement field. The book is now in its eighth edition. “The Last Dance” came from the idea that the warrior goes to the mountain to dance his last dance before death. At the core of the book, DeSpelder explores attitudes surrounding death, including language.

How do children process death, and how do adults handle it? The book also tackles terminal illnesses and survivors. The experience of loss and grief is unique to each situation. However, having knowledge helps tremendously. DeSpelder’s sister-in-law died young, and was fussy at the end of her life. She needed to have her makeup done by a specific person for the funeral. DeSpelder asked the funeral director how they would be contacted when it was time to do her makeup. He pushed back, saying he did a good job, and DeSpelder knew that the client should have their last wishes fulfilled.

Death Around the World

DeSpelder’s book has been published in numerous languages. In China, the publisher is based in Beijing. Typically, the Chinese are a closed culture when it comes to death and dying. It’s the very first translated book in the field of grief and dying. It’s being published on the anniversary of a major earthquake, and DeSpelder sees it as opening a crack in death discussions.

It’s important to remember that discussions about death and dying should happen well before a terminal illness or traumatic loss. It might not always be easy, but it will make tough times more comfortable in the future. Death is one of life’s few certainties, and we should all be talking about it.


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