AUTHOR, "BECOMING STARLIGHT: A SHARED DEATH JOURNEY FROM DARKNESS TO LIGHT"
Dr. Sharon Prentice is the author of Becoming Starlight: A Shared Death Journey from Darkness to Light. Soon after completing her graduate studies in psychology, Dr. Prentice longed to discover “the why’s” about her own intimate experience with death in the form of an SDE, and that of others who had experienced something “weird, unbelievable, odd” at the time of the death of a loved one. Dr. Prentice is in private practice as a Licensed Clinical Pastoral Counselor – Advanced Certification. She is also a Board Certified Spiritual Counselor (SC-C) and holds Board Certification in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Group Therapy, Integrated Marriage and Family Therapy, and Crisis and Abuse Therapy. She is also a Board Certified Temperament Counselor. Dr. Prentice is a Professional Member of the American Counselors Association, a Professional Clinical member of the National Christian Counselors Association, a Clinical member of the American Mental Health Counselors Association, and a Presidential member of the American Association of Christian Counselors. She is also a Commissioned Minister of Pastoral Care. For more information, please visit https://sharonprentice.com and follow the author on Facebook and Twitter.
Dig and peel…dig and peel…is what I do best! That is, after keeping my mouth shut and listening! “What the caterpillar calls the end, the rest of the world calls a butterfly” (Lao Tzu) is an apt description of what awaits me every time a new patient enters my world. The first rule of all interpersonal relationship is listening…then listening again…and then again…and my remaining quiet until I see that spark of pain touch their eyes and the question that, oftentimes, hasn’t even been formed tries to emerge. I had to learn to keep my mouth shut until it was time-when the awakening could finally begin so we could start the process of peeling back the layers that grab onto and stick to the Soul like tar. Coco Channel said, “one of the most courageous acts would be to speak for yourself-out loud!” Getting a patient to that point, helping them define what really brought them to me, digging and peeling away at that tar to expose the Spirit-that’s my forte- driving my clients a bit insane before they emerge as that butterfly and take flight- that’s the whole ballgame!
Embracing life – running to it -not from it -is when I am at my best. I discovered, the hard way -that to live in fear of death brings with it the unintended consequence of living in fear of life! Entering the underbelly of the Soul -and unearthing the darkness that threatens to eat you alive -brings with it an awakening to life -an awakening to the unadulterated joy and abandon that is our true nature and birthright. Living out in the open, with all my flaws and failures up -front and center -and having no fear of reprisal or judgement -well, talk about a freeing experience! Living in the quiet certainty that all is well with my Soul -that is the very best version of me!
And, having enough alone time for marathon chick flicks that make me laugh or cry- that works too!
In my personal life, I aspire to be courageous! It is something I seek every day. It’s difficult some days but I never stop trying to live in it as fully and completely as I can. To seek a perpetually overflowing cup, fueled by love and joy and powered by courage- a mighty task indeed but one I assign to myself every day. Sure, I fail at it (sometimes so often I wonder why I even do this to myself) but when I do fail -I just pick myself up, dust myself off, and start all over again. Sound familiar? There is no shame in failure! There is, instead, an opportunity to rise to whatever “Ah Ha” moment presented itself when I fell face first into whatever muck I found myself wallowing in! I don’t aspire to perfection -I’m wise enough to know that doesn’t exist. But I like to imagine my world as being one where I am, at the very least-my own hero!
Professionally, hearing the words “She helped me live again…she gave me back my life…after she made me nuts!”…always makes my day! I don’t let people give up on themselves. Walking, sometimes crawling, with my patients through the valleys of their lives -to find their truths -is something I hold sacred -and something I aspire to do with every single person that seeks me out. I put no limits on where I will go with them -even into the darkest of their nightmares -to help them find their way. I am a seeker of peace -and to help someone find their place in this world and be at peace within their Soul – it doesn’t get any better than that!
But-before I forget – lying in my hammock on the beach, next to my cottage surrounded by the sand dunes that hold the traces of our bonfires, the ocean breezes carrying the smells that my Spirit thrives on, my children laughing and splashing in the ocean -that’s it! That’s all I want or need…
Now that’s a question for the ages! It’s difficult to define just one thing that I would call “my biggest success”. If I had to choose one, however, it would be this one thing-survival! Sound strange? Sure, it does. I’m quite sure it elicits a “what” and maybe even a frown or two. As I wrote in “Becoming Starlight” -it was meeting death that saved my life.
Yep -meeting death was actually the very moment that I had to decide whether to begin anew or just cave to the forces of life that seemed to be swallowing me whole -not even taking a bite -just swallowing me whole as I do a piece of chocolate that I have craved all day and now must scarf up before someone grabs it away from me! My survival – my success – began as I took that huge leap of faith into the unknown and trusted (yikes) yes, trusted that life wasn’t out to get me or punish me or condemn me or judge me. Success then, to me, is something as rare as having absolute faith in the goodness and gentleness of the human Soul and something as simple as the smile on my children’s faces as they say goodbye in the morning as they leave for school-and my knowing I have done a good job in letting them go in peace with the knowledge and absolute confidence that they are loved above all else. My biggest success, then, would be in the “knowing” of those I love – that they know, without doubt or fear, the crown I wear is because of them; the glory I gather to myself-is because of them; the joy in my Soul -is because of them; and the greatest thing I have ever accomplished -is to love them without reservation and, in return-be loved by them.
My most challenging moment, or should I say, my “continually” most challenging moments-are those moments when I feel the need to control the entire universe! I tried that once – and to quote Dr. Phil “How’d that work out for ya?” In a nutshell -it didn’t! Not only did it not work out -it sent me spiraling into a downward descent that had no end. Learning to surrender that “need to control” all things in life was something I had extreme difficulty in accepting. I needed to learn the difference between surrender and defeat. I thought they were synonymous. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
My most challenging moment came at my most vulnerable of all times – the deaths of my daughter and husband. Accepting that death is part of life and that I was not in control of who lived and who died was a Soul shattering discovery for me. You’d think we would all know that innately. Not so in moments of great despair. Surrendering to my own mortality, to the mortality of those I loved, to my powerlessness over the very forces that belong to God and to God alone -was my moment, my “come to God” moment where He challenged my fear and set me free of and healed my wounded heart.
Learning that surrender and defeat were polar opposites became the impetus for change and set my feet firmly on the path I follow today. Do I still struggle with control issues? Of course, I do! I believe that all of us, in one way or another, wish to control everything around us and, to some degree, all those around us. Surrendering to the fact that you have no control over anything except yourself and your behaviors, actions and beliefs is such a “freeing” experience. I mean, just think about that for a minute! Imagine yourself free of all that responsibility and accountability over the actions of others! And letting God do His thing the way only He can do it –makes you smile just a bit, doesn’t it? It most certainly did me!
Maya Angelou once said, “When someone shows you who they are-believe them!” If we all could just accept the fact that we cannot change anyone else…life would be a piece of chocolate cake with whipped cream and cherries on top!
How many times have you said to yourself, “He/she will change if I do this or that…or he/she will change if I say this or that…or he/she will love me enough to change once they understand.” Those rose-colored glasses everyone puts on when they don’t want to truly “see” that change is not forthcoming-they need to be cleaned with an entire bottle of Windex and some powerful wipes! Having said that -change is possible -but only if the person wants it for themselves. Just because you may have an “issue” with certain behaviors doesn’t mean they have to agree with you. Remember that!
There’s no trick here. You must decide what you will accept. What behaviors, belief systems, opinions, lifestyles, etc…you are willing to accept into your life… then go with it! It’s not your job to change those that you allow into your life. It’s your job to decide who you let in- just as they are! You have no right to complain about or fall victim to those you allowed in, all the while thinking, “I can change them”. Short of abuse that is well hidden beforehand -you are responsible for “seeing” what you are being shown by everyone who crosses your path.
Just who are my favorite people in this world of ours? That’s easy! The top spot, the Blue ribbon goes to children between the ages of 3 and 6. Yes – I love the ankle biters of the world! Those little ones who only know how to live in the present with joy and laughter and aren’t embarrassed or ashamed to “feel’ everything that life has to offer. Think about it – they “high five” and fist bump everyone; they cheer on everyone they see; they plaster huge wet kisses on the cheeks of those they love and pass around hugs to everyone who will accept them; they cry for their friends who are sad and celebrate with those who are happy; they joyfully tell you they love you or willingly let you know when they are sad or hurting; and they ask for what they want or need; only they can put their tiny arms around you and say “I love you” without being asked to do so; they crawl up beside you in bed when you are sick or sad and tell you it will all be ok; they don’t judge anyone-they haven’t learned jealousy or hatred yet; they forgive freely and quickly (do you remember being able to do that?); when they see you, they run to you with open hearts and smiling dirty faces – free of the “I’m having a bad hair day ” thought; and they laugh…oh how they laugh! There is nothing known to mankind as innocent and contagious as a child’s laughter! I dare you to sit with them and not rejoice in your Soul and feel the joy, once again, of the true nature that existed in you when you were a child. You will find it there, that smile you thought you had lost long ago -I find it every time I grab a crayon and plop down on a chair that’s much too small for me and, even though I’m all hunched over with legs stuffed under a tiny table – I fall in love with myself all over again-because I find ME in them! Give it a try!! Go ahead…I dare ya! Their joy is absolutely contagious.
I have two favorite places. First and foremost is Home…wherever that may be…as long as I have my loves with me.
The second is the ocean…any ocean at all where my feet can touch the sand and my face can feel the breeze that caresses my Spirit.
Both are home, aren’t they? So, I guess I could just say “home”.
Good books that makes me think or cry or laugh are an absolute must! So many passionate Souls have come into my life -some for a lifetime, some for a short stopover; some in “real” life” but some through the power and magic of their written words. Their voices remain in my Spirit long after they have left my side or I have put their book on my shelf… they live in the recesses of my heart and mind and I bring them with me wherever I travel. Books are always a voyage of discovery that lead me to an unearthing of something inside of me that needs to be released into the open air. And, of course, since I am a chocoholic- no good book is enjoyed all by itself! It must be accompanied by some Goldenberg Peanut Chews or some Cadbury Fruit and Nut bars!
And my necklace! The “things/objects” I value most are on a small golden chain that I never…and I mean never…take off. Three things hang from that chain – a Jerusalem cross given to me by my mom before she left this earth, a Scapular medal that reflects my presence with and within my God, and a $3.00 “Nana” charm given to me by my grandson when he was 4 years old. Treasures beyond worth…
And music…they say it soothes the savage beast…I don’t know about that, but it certainly makes all my puppies sleep! And, by the way, our lizard, Spike – he likes Jimmy Buffet!
It may seem boring to some, but my passions lie with my family! All of them- and there are a lot of them! The two- footed kind and the four footers. The furry ones, the feathered ones, the scaled ones, the finned ones and everything in between. My home is menagerie of sorts – and I wouldn’t have it any other way!
I, and my entire family, are also very dedicated animal rescue enthusiasts. (Why do you think I have such a menagerie that we call family?) And this dedication is not just for what we know as “companion” animals but also for what we, as a nation, deem as “farmed” animals. The lack of compassion and respect for the sentient beings we share our lives with, our planet with-is in dire need of radical change! I try, every day, to change the minds and hearts of those who don’t see or want to acknowledge the cruelty and abuse that exists throughout the system in play today. To be a role model for others to develop an awareness and compassion for these sentient beings by my not eating them, wearing them, or using them in any capacity is something I live every day…and hope it is seen and copied by those who are willing to “see”.