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The NAMW Virtual Book Club presents:

Cheryl Krauter

Odyssey of Ashes: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Letting Go

August 5, 2021
4 PM PDT  | 5 PM MDT  | 6 PM CDT  | 7 PM EDT

In ODYSSEY OF ASHES: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Letting Go, I write about losing my husband, John, suddenly and unexpectedly in May of 2016. Part I of the memoir is an account of the first year after my husband’s death, where I becomes an explorer in the infinite stream of grief and loss, a time traveler between the darkness of sorrow and the light of daily life. Part II shares stories of the poignant and humorous adventures I have during the ensuing year. Tying it all together and woven throughout is my account of the creation of an altar assembled during the three-day ritual of Los Dias de los Muertos. This is a raw story of love and the deep transformation that traveling through darkness and returning to light can bring.

Five months after his sudden death, in a stroke of irony and magic, John won a long-desired guided fly-fishing trip in a raffle and I was offered the prize to go in his place.  I saw this synchronistic event as a sign of a story that wanted to be told and it was then that I decided to write this memoir. I was also fulfilling a promise that I had made to scatter John’s ashes beside a trout stream which, in the end, turned out to be the Madison River in Montana.

Writing this book was powerful, cathartic, and, eventually, healing.  Being in solitude with the memories of my experience was, at times, wrenching, causing me to experience such deep emotion that I would need to stop composing a scene in order to catch my breath.  Yet I seemed compelled to continue writing, reliving times of trauma along with moments of dark humor, sometimes finding a kind of sorrowful joy in the telling of my story.  My grief, along with the shock of a sudden death, left me reeling in a watery world I often found unrecognizable.  It was a strange and timeless period and the writing of this book anchored me as I navigated my day-to-day life.  My life was forever changed yet I discovered a resilience within me that forged a path of hope as I moved forward.

My writing process is very internal and I began making notes from the moment I made the decision to write the memoir. I gathered thoughts and feelings in the form of post-it notes, journal entries, scribblings on receipts and napkins, all of which I would shove into a special folder for this particular book.  Everything I have written begins with odd scraps of paper bundled into piles that will eventually become a book.

In this presentation, you will learn about:

  • Realizing loss as an existential truth of life
  • Acknowledging the trauma of sudden death
  • The resilience that can be gained as part of the healing process
  • The possibilities of transformation through grief
  • Mythology and ritual as aspects of deep healing

Cheryl Krauter, MFT an Existential Humanistic psychotherapist with 40 years of experience in the field of depth psychology and human consciousness. Her private practice is in Albany and San Francisco with individuals, couples and groups. With her background in theater arts, working with performing artists, visual artists and creative people has inspired her. She works with people who have been diagnosed with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses, their partners, family members, and caregivers. She is a cancer survivor. Cheryl has been a part of the Women’s Cancer Resource Center in Oakland, CA as a board member, a therapist in the Free Therapy Program, and has presented numerous workshops for WCRC, both for therapists, cancer patients, and caregivers. She is involved with the American Psychosocial Oncology Society, Northern California Group Psychotherapy Society and has presented for both organizations, she has presented for the Cancer Support Community in Walnut Creek and Los Angeles, and The Psychotherapy Institute in Berkeley, CA.  She is the co-founder of Savvy Survivor – an online resource for cancer survivors She has published two books: Surviving the Storm: A Workbook for Telling Your Cancer Story (Oxford University Press 2017) and Psychosocial Care of Cancer Survivors: A Clinician’s Guide and Workbook for Providing Wholehearted Care (Oxford University Press 2018).  Her book Odyssey of Ashes: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Letting Go, She Writes Press, will be released in July 2021.

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