Death Dialogues: Intuitive Grief Coach Rachel Ricketts
Death Dialogues features interviews with professionals who deal with death, grief, and grieving in their work. From creatives to funeral directors to taxidermists—we talk about why and how they've chosen to spend their working life examining the afterlife.
There’s no way around that fact. It’s a sucky shitshow of a rollercoaster—not only do you feel the ups and downs of your emotions, but sometimes it feels like that rollercoaster has broken down in the middle of a dry, lonely dessert. Other times it feels like it’s plunging you straight to the bottom of the ocean while you drown. It sucks, it’s isolating, and it’s exhausting.
What sucks even more is that people find it hard to talk about death, loss, and grief in this way—this way in which you curse and scream at the top of your lungs over brunch, or mumble through tears in your car on the side of the road. Rachel Ricketts is not one of those people.
I think we need more spaces and places where we can be real with ourselves and others and talk about the hard shit. - Rachel "RayRay" Ricketts
“RayRay” is an intuitive grief coach helping people bawl, stretch, laugh, talk, journal, and meditate their way through the grieving process. She is the founder of loss&found, and not only does she help people with grief as it relates do death (though that was the focus of my interview with her), but she sees grief as a key part of many life events that we deal with.
When I first learned about RayRay and her work, I signed up for her email list. This was when I got the first dose of profound realness. Emails started coming with subject lines that read, "grief is a mindfuck", "how's your heart?" and "you get to choose how you grieve." I read her e-Book, "The Shit You Need to Know About Grief" and laughed through tears while learning about "the top 5 things she wishes she had known about grief (before it kicked her in the ass)."
In our chat, RayRay pointed out the difference between a counsellor and a coach. One of the biggest differences I’ve seen, heard, and felt in her material is that realness, which is inspirational, motivational, and personal—it runs as a consistent, uplifting energy throughout her work, similar to that of a coach that wants to see you do your best, while recognizing that it's a journey.
Because her practice is so expansive (and because we’re both big talkers) I’ve split this interview into two parts. Below, we dive into the inspiration for loss&found, the details of her work, and what it means to be a grieving grief coach.
Alica Forneret: If I understand correctly, your mom died late October 2015. A little over two years after her death, you’ve started a business focused on grief, written an e-book, started a blog, dealt with your own grief, helped others deal with theirs. You’re certified as a death doula, you host speaking engagements, and you facilitate workshops. And you’ve done all of this from our rainy, grey city of Vancouver. I’d like to start by saying, “Props, girl.” This city is full of dark days and fancy donut shops… a combination of things that make it particularly hard to navigate my own grief healthily. So, in the midst of grieving, what made you decide to approach grief as a profession?
Rachel Ricketts: Thank you! I hadn’t really seen it all laid out like that to be honest. Shit. I’m tired just reading it. I’m not so sure it was a decision so much as it became a calling. Before my mom died, I knew that I wanted to help people through their most dire time of need in some way, but after she died I experienced a dark night of the soul that left me depressed and isolated in a way I had never imagined possible. When I came out the other end, I knew it was my life’s work to help people dealing with their grief and support others so as to feel less alone.
AF: And why is this what you’re meant to be doing right now?
RR: It’s what lights me up, what makes me happiest, what I’m good at and what I devote endless hours towards pursuing irrespective of the financial gain (and sometimes loss). I was reading a book recently that asked what you would get up at 6:00 am on a Sunday to work for. I had woken up at 6:00 am the same day I read that particular question to work on content for my online grief support workshop, which also happened to be on a Sunday.
I’m not pretending this is all sunshine and lollipops. Its not. It’s hard AF and there are days it feels thankless and arrogant and vulnerable and I want to quit. But in my heart, I know it’s what I’m meant to be doing right now.
AF: You’ll talk to people dealing with their own extreme situations via email or phone, connect with them in webinars, videos, TV and podcasts. This is very different from the kind of traditional counselling. Why is your kind of counselling necessary and helpful for people, especially in 2018?
RR: So, very important point here: I am not a counsellor. I’m an intuitive grief coach, which is a different offering altogether. I help people through trying times of all forms using spiritual tools such as Reiki, breathwork, guided meditation, yin yoga, journaling, oracle card readings, dream analysis, vision, and goal-setting and the like.
I believe we all have the tools we need to heal our own hearts embedded within us, and I simply serve as a guide to help folks unlock the toolkit that will best help them at the time so they can move through their grief on their own terms and begin to transition back to joy (or for some, start the journey into joy for the first time).
My offerings are helpful because they support people on all levels. Mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically, and allow people to feel empowered in navigating challenging situations while learning tools that will aid them in moving through the ups and downs of life for years to come. I’m a big fan and believer in traditional therapy, and what I offer is a complementary approach (or singular approach for those who don’t resonate with counselling).
The collective consciousness is rising and I think having a way to feel more connected and guided through our personal and spiritual growth is exactly what we all need right now. Time to get woke, folks!
AF: In your work, your voice is raw, honest and vulnerable. When advising someone about how to take care of a grieving friend, you suggest, “First and foremost, make sure you’re up to the task. If you’re not, clearly explain why, then do everyone a favour and leave them the fuck alone cuz they need to be around folks who can step up when shit gets rough.”
Before I even watched any of your videos, I felt like I could hear your voice loud and clear through every word that you wrote. It’s not often that you find people writing or acting this vulnerably and openly about grief, grieving, and loss. What made you decide to communicate with such a distinct tone, voice, and language? Why is it important that you keep this consistent?
RR: Sooooo, that’s just how I talk! Haha. Truly. I get asked this question a lot and the answer is that there was no other way for me to express myself—this is who I am. 100%. No covering up or watering it down, because that doesn’t serve me and it sure as heck ain’t gonna serve you. When I was acutely grieving, I couldn’t find anything that truly related to me to help me through. So I created it.
I live for authenticity, so that’s what I dish out. I strongly believe that we all benefit when we show up as and who we are, where are, especially when we’re moving through hard stuff. If sharing my truth, including my highs and my lows, can help others then why wouldn’t I? Communication is also my biggest strength. It’s how I relate to and process the world, so by sharing myself in this way, it helps me process my own ish too.
Consistency isn’t important to me, per se, but staying true to who I am and how I can best serve definitely is. And right now, this is who I am, and this is how I can best be of service.
AF: Of course, this would be appealing to some, but not to others. (Personally, I love cursing, crying, and yelling as much as possible to deal with all of this, so I’m on board here.)
What have people said helps most about this kind of tone and approach to talking about grief? What kind of feedback or criticism do you get about this approach?
RR: Yah, I think you either totally resonate with my work, or you just plain hate. And I’m cool with that. I’m not for everybody (nobody is), but I want to be clear about who I am so I can reach my people. The folks who dig it appreciate the candor, the real and rawness of it all. It helps them feel seen, heard and supported.
I always say, “If you’re not swearing when you’re talking about grief, then I’m not sure what the fuck you’re talking about.” But, it’s not for everyone. I had a major book agent tell me my tone was too harsh for people in grief. And for some, that’s absolutely true. But not for my peoples. That’s who I’m speaking to and that’s who I’m here to help. There are definitely other options for those who don’t appreciate my vibe, and I am always happy to help people find them.