Welcome to my reader

Almost dying was like falling from a height into a body of water. And the sting of going below stunned me into an extraordinary clarity that slowed down everything. As I sank below the living, my name and identity – where I lived, what I did, all the outer roles and circumstances I was struggling with – seemed to float like clothes on the surface above me…. nearly dying made me realize that life and death are knit together and we are stretched between them, needing both surface and depth.

—Mark Nepo

SYNOPSIS: About this book

In early February 2016, Wendy Sarkissian lost a lot more than her husband of 23 years. Upside-down, tangled in her seatbelt in a submerged car, she witnessed her husband drown after failing to save him. Their car had plunged 40 meters into a river from a narrow, rural Australian road. Life as Wendy knew it vanished in an instant. She lost her best friend, research assistant, editor, business colleague and advisor, her health, her home, community, profession, income, financial support, intellect, and self-confidence. With seconds to spare, Wendy escaped from the submerged car.

A month after Karl’s death, inspired by Rudolf Steiner’s book, Staying Connected: How to Continue Your Relationships with Those Who Have Died (1999), Wendy began a morning ritual of writing to Karl in her journal.

Welcome to my reader! I’ve been waiting for you, and I’m so glad you’re here. I conceived this book for you in unimaginable pain and crafted it with love and hopefulness. It’s both a story and a guide. It’s a personal story of love, loss, redemption, and healing.

And it’s a guide to a specific approach to healing from loss and grief following the death of a loved one.

This book is about staying connected with a loved one who has died — and finding and following helpful ways of doing that. It explores ways of using that connection for healing, using approaches that have stood the test of time and that integrate psychological, spiritual, and mental processes.

This book is my “meaning-making” — a new form birthed from the deep sorrow of the sudden loss of my beloved husband, Karl. I have learned that meaning can give hope to suffering and may ultimately bring joy into our lives. I found that one key to healing is finding meaning in what we have suffered.

A little about me

I am a grieving person, not a psychologist, grief counselor or bereavement therapist. Before the car crash that took the life of my husband in early 2016, I was a prominent member of the urban and community planning professions. I specialized in community engagement, social research, and housing, am the author of several professional books and a sought-after conference speaker and facilitator. I hold a doctorate in professional ethics.

From the small village of Nimbin in northern New South Wales (about 100 miles south of Brisbane), I operated a niche consulting business as a community planner. Most of my clients were local municipalities.

Canadian-born and raised in Vancouver, I lived in many Australian cities and towns after emigrating to Australia in 1968. Aside from my husband, I have few relatives, having grown up in a dysfunctional Canadian family beset by financial hardship, alcoholism, mental illness, and abuse. 

Migrating to Australia at age 25, I learned to live with sadness and difficulty and to forge a new life in my adopted country – a country I fiercely love. Although I had lots of life experience with trauma, beginning with my childhood, I had no direct knowledge of injury or trauma on the scale I experienced after Karl’s death.

THE ORIGINS OF my interest in connecting with dead people

I have always been fascinated by death and dying and love to read about reincarnation and the afterlife. But I had never seen a dead body, and I worried about how I’d react. I wanted to be present with dying people, although my experience was limited. In the early 1980s, when my dear friend Doug, who had advanced cancer, seemed reluctant to die, I guessed that the inconsolable grief of another close friend was holding him back.

I flew to Adelaide, raced to the hospital and, after a hug and some pleasantries, announced:

“I love you, Doug. I will always love you. And you are really sick, Doug. It’s fine with me if you die now. It’s time to go. Bernie and I will be just fine without you. I promise you that. I will keep a close eye on Bernie.”

Doug died peacefully the following week.

With another dear friend, Alex, who died suddenly of an asthma attack at age 63, I had a strong feeling that the grief of his wife and adult children might have impeded his passage: tethering him to Earth. I guessed he was trapped somewhere. Five years after his death, I worked with a clairvoyant healer to cut the remaining cords that bound him and sent him on his way, heading toward the light. Alex was so ready to go and so grateful for our help!

I have long believed that the grief of survivors (like me) should not restrain or tether a soul who has passed from this life. I feel that the integrity of the soul’s journey is paramount. Those views landed me in some sticky situations, but I persisted with my hybrid life. Decades ago, I even apprenticed myself to a clairvoyant healer in Darwin to study mediumship.


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