So you want to know a little bit more about me? Thanks for clicking on this page. Here are some of the most common questions people ask me.
What do you enjoy most about the work you do?
I enjoy speaking, consulting, counseling and equipping people with practical tools that help them transition through loss.
I love it when people email me, phone me or come into the office and say, “This stuff really works! I wish that I had known about this information before. It would have saved me a lot of heartache and pain.” This information helps people no matter where they’re at and that jazzes me.
What kind of work did you do before you got into full time counseling, speaking and writing?
I grew up in Alberta (yes, “Canada, eh?”). My Dad was a banker so we moved quite often. I even spent some years up in the North West Territories.
I entered into the business world as a marketing and sales director for a large manufacturer. Prior to that, I had been a fulltime pastor for a number of years. It was a pretty crazy time because, along with my full time job, I set up a counseling practice; became the resident chaplain at local funeral home; trained people in palliative care and grief work; and served at a small country church. It wasn’t long before I formed my own successful marketing company. Lots of different hats for sure, but all those things shaped me for the work I do now. My first book, “Finding Anchors”: Bringing stability to your life following a cancer diagnosis is set to be released in May of 2015.
I have a Bachelor’s Degree in History and Psychology and a Master’s Degree in Theology and Pastoral Care from the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Saskatoon. I have completed the prestigious CT designation from the Association of Death Education and Counseling and continued to study in the specific area of Thanatology (the study of death, dying and grief), which has become my passion. I meet with families and individual clients in my counseling practice who are experiencing loss, in between my training and speaking events. I love my life!
How did you get into the grief business?
Often, our calling and purpose find us. That was my experience. I couldn’t shake my involvement in the area of death, dying and grief if I had wanted to. It followed me around, whether professionally, recreationally or personally – I could be on a holiday or having a beer at the pub, and more often than not, I would end up talking with a person about one of the losses of their life.
I’ve had hundreds and hundreds of experiences that have helped me distill my information into practical approaches that work. Those whom I’ve sat with in their last moments of life, and those whom I’ve supported following death, and every loss in between, have formed and shaped my approach to loss. This is as much their story as it is mine. And I am thankful for each one of them.
My own story is also important, as is each of yours. My first wife, Pam, died at age 47, following a 5-year battle with cancer. We still miss her deeply. That unexpected event in our personal journey has obviously had an impact on my work and helped to form and shape my practical approaches to grief. When you go through grief yourself, you need to figure out what works best for you. I was very intentional in this process and although it was tough, it was one of my greatest teachers.
What do you think are the missing pieces in grief and loss education?
There is a lot of good literature out there as well as many professionals who are well trained to talk with people who are transitioning through loss. My goal is to use approaches to loss that people find very practical as they enter into the work of grief during their transitional period. People need to take some action following a loss and they need to consider who will journey with them. Much of my work is based on helping people discover the step they can make in their transitional journey.
What is Intentional Grief?
There are some steps that we can take in our grief journey that are very important. There are also some important tasks that a friend can offer that supplement and add to our journey by inviting along one person with some grief knowledge. Intentional Grief teaches people to look at the options by examining a number of different approaches that may work better for each person as a unique individual.
Your way is different from others. Intentional grief helps you discover you unique transitional loss preference by examining the unique components that make up your grief profile.
Once you identity and begin to implement your unique approach to loss , you can begin to work through grief in a way that will maximize your growth and leave you with the least amount of scars.
What’s different about your approach?
I’m not suggesting that some situations may call for long-term therapy. Sometimes this is required. I specialize in transitional loss and refer clients to those professionals with that particular skill set when necessary.
My desire is to give people tools, which I refer to as approaches that will help them specifically in their transitional work. However, nothing is in stone – as we all know, sometimes directions change on a map and people may take a different road. It’s all about picking up another tool to add to the toolbox at that point. One size does not fit all. That’s why I truly believe that each person has a specific loss profile and if we know what the preferences are we can better transition through loss.
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?
I love writing children’s stories. I get my inspiration from my kids and grandkids.
I love watching my grandchildren make pizza. I wrote a book about Connor called The Stretchy Cheese Pizza. It will be published very soon. Ella our granddaughter is adorable. She reminds me of Pam. I FaceTime® them every day and would do more if I wanted to be a nosey grandpa.
I love hanging out with my kids. Three of them live in the area, so we have wonderful, vibrant discussion over meals. It gets loud. We are somewhat of a competitive family, so it makes for lively debate. Sports events are all about winning!
Every Friday I get together with a group of friends. It’s called P-4 Club. Meaning, “Pub-at-4” or “Pastor-at-4”. We just catch up on our week and enjoy each other’s company and a pint or two.
I love sitting with my wife, Erica, each night over a glass of red wine. If we have time, we sit in the hot tub and talk, pray and thank God for all the blessings we continue to have in our lives.
I love thinking about possibilities and spend hours doodling on paper. I am a crazy ideas guy and my entrepreneurial spirit gets me going quite often.
What are your pet peeves?
- People who drive too slowly.
- People who are not authentic and real.
- People who complain all the time.
- People who habitually show up late for meetings.
- People who only talk about themselves and don’t allow other people any air time.
What are some things about you that others may not know?
- I played college hockey. Goalie. I love the pressure!
- I played in a championship hockey game with a torn knee cartilage.
- I was the starting goaltender for the first hockey game that Prince Charles watched live.
- I had an opportunity to buy a company in Bangladesh.
- I was a shareholder in the very first self-serve water company in the world.
- I met my wife, Erica, on ChristianMingle.com. Our first date was in Maui, Hawaii.
- My best friend is a Romanian immigrant.
- My first wife was the best mother in the world.
- I was commissioned to write a training program to prepare mid-life people for parish ministry.
- I have published my first children’s story.
Tell me about your family?
I have been married twice. As indicated earlier, my first wife died. We missed our 25th Anniversary by 12 days. I met her in college choir. Playing hockey, I also knew that that hottest chicks were in the choir, so I joined. It worked (to the surprise of my teammates)! We were blessed with four children. The eldest is a computer engineer; the second, a teacher and a stay-at-home mom; the third is a Law student; and the fourth, the business guy. Pam was an amazing mom and beautiful Christian women who left her footprint on this world.
Erica is one of the leading choral conductors in the country. She is amazing. Never married, we met online and were married when she was 46 years of age. I still marvel at how one person can be twice blessed. I brought her all the way from Montreal, Quebec to Alberta. She is so smart and so beautiful. I continue to learn so much from her. She is an awesome grandma, stepmom and wife. Erica told me it was my words that grabbed her. And here I thought it was my good looks! Yeah, right!
How have your life experiences prepared you for your present vocation?
I don’t know any profession in the world that has the opportunity to be with people when they are alive, when they are dying and with their family during their time of grieving. Most academic disciplines separate those areas. I think that being versatile gives me a very unique and well-rounded perspective in my approaches to grief and loss. My business background helps me get the message out so that it can be helpful for as many as possible. It’s a good combination.
What are the strongest convictions that you hold?
As a Christian, I believe that I need to honor God with the gifts and experiences that He has given me. I try to love others, but I know I fail. I often think about myself first. It’s so hard not to be self-centered. I believe in God’s unconditional love and forgiveness. The paint is still wet, but the painter is still working on the portrait. And it has a lot of flaws.
I love people and want to learn from them. I enter into conversations with a listening ear, open mind and heart to people who are different from me. Ordinary people teach me about life and me. I love listening to people’s stories; I find them fascinating. I can’t wait to engage and listen to the next person. Every person is unique and special. Diversity is the honey added to our lives and personal growth.
I believe strongly in “front-end loading” in life. I know from experience that we can plan for some of tomorrow’s challenges by thinking about the obstacles that could be ahead of us. This is not control, this is being wise.