Q: What death benefits that people experienced surprised you most?
A: I was surprised by people who were able to get divorced after their parents died. Getting married made more sense to me, but I didn’t expect divorce. It just confirms that our parents have so much more influence than we realize. Imagine a man staying in a terrible marriage for 39 years because his father said to him, “A man stays with his family.”
Q: Many of the people in your book who underwent major life changes as a result of their parent’s death were in their 40s, 50s or 60s. Do you think that people resist the idea that they can still change dramatically in their midlife?
A: Definitely. Our whole culture is so youth-oriented that nobody even really thinks about the transformations that can happen during the second half of life. One of the positive messages in this book, and in this whole way of thinking, is that you can change until the day you die—even on the day you die.
Q: So people in midlife underestimate their own ability for change.
A: Well, in the second half of life, you’ve come into your own to some degree. You have a more formed personality and identity, very often you have children yourself, you can relate to a parent more, you’re not as dependent. As an adult, you have tools within you that you didn’t have when you were younger. The only thing standing in your way is the internalized notion that change is for the young.