Saybrook instructor Elena Gillespie, Ph.D., publishes book on transpersonal experiences of death and dying

Dr. Elena Gillespie

Dr. Elena Gillespie

Dr. Elena Gillespie, researcher and faculty member with Saybrook University, has trained with a psychic-shaman in Michigan for many years, and is a certified Medium in the Spiritualist Church, in addition to being a Reiki master since 1988.  She had a private practice in Michigan, focusing primarily on working with patients with cancer, and in palliative care, when some of those patients were close to transition into death.  Dr. Gillespie’s dissertation was a phenomenological-hermeneutic analysis of her transpersonal experiences with these subjects.  Her book is based on her dissertation called The Anatomy of Death: Notes From a Healer’s Casebook.  

Dr. Gillespie has recently published her book, which is now available on Amazon.  As a quantitative biomedical researcher, Dr. Gillespie has drawn upon her own work as a medium and collected case studies as material for her book.  She seeks to understand how people prepare for death and dying.  Dr. Gillespie comments, “typically, people prepare for death in various ways, or not at all in American culture.”  The process of death and dying often involves other people besides the one who is passing.  For example, Dr. Gillespie works with family members who are also involved with the process.  Drawing upon the literature, Dr. Gillespie comments that 30-70% of people in the dying process see their relatives in spirit as they are getting closer to death.  Additionally, there are a number of people who report having dreams, meditation experiences, or visions of accompanying a loved one on their journey.  These visions and experiences, as Dr. Gillespie reports, are well documented in the literature.

The focus of Dr. Gillespie’s book is on these various experiences of death and dying, and she takes a specific focus on how we can further assist this transition.  Currently there is a loose structure around transition into death.  For example, when one is progressing towards the end of their life, they may have no will in place, no dying director to assist, and no additional information or guidance for the journey ahead.  Dr. Gillespie notes that while historically death has lacked a structure to ground belief systems, things are improving.  She notes that having some support can help a person who is passing over.  Dr. Gillespie remarks that she strives to “make the process a little less scary for the average person”.

In addition to her recent book publication, Dr. Gillespie is in the process of co-designing a class for Fielding Graduate University on death and dying.  Accompanying this process is her desire to create a series of documentaries, which will be televised on PBS.  Her documentary series will focus on how to prepare, spiritually and logistically, for death.