Death, Dying, and Grief

Death, Dying, and Grief: An interview with Jill Johnson-Young, LCSW

An interview with Jill Johnson-Young, LCSW about how we have been trained to handle grief wrong. Curt and Katie talk with Jill about what the Kubler-Ross model is useful for (and what it’s not) as well has how therapists can better deal with grief – for themselves and in their practice.

It’s time to reimagine therapy and what it means to be a therapist. We are human beings who can now present ourselves as whole people, with authenticity, purpose, and connection. Especially now, when therapists must develop a personal brand to market their practices.

To support you as a whole person and a therapist, your hosts, Curt Widhalm and Katie Vernoy talk about how to approach the role of therapist in the modern age.

Interview with Jill A. Johnson-Young, LCSW, Grief educator, and CEO of Central Counseling Services of Riverside and Murrieta

Jill Johnson-Young, LCSW is a dynamic and engaging presenter. She is consistently noted for providing thorough and useful information to meet the needs of the audience.  Professional and community seminars have returned reviews thanking her for being the best seminar of the conference, for being personable and including questions from the participants, and for both the lecture content and the interactive portions of the programs. Jill is available for presentations about the following issues:

  • Grief and loss: all ages, all kinds of losses (pets, family, friends, chronic illness and sudden losses, hospice and what to expect, new ways to see grief, coping, how loss impacts the grieving person, others)
  • Dementia: Losses, involved, coping for those with dementia and those impacted by it, recovery after a loss form dementia, family dynamics in coping with dementia

When she is not out speaking, which is one of Jill’s favorite parts of her career, she is the CEO and Clinical Director of Central Counseling Services in Riverside, California. She is a certified Grief Recovery Facilitator and specializes her private practice work in grief and loss, dementia, trauma, and adoption issues. She has more than a decade of experience with hospice and trains therapists and social workers in areas that include correctly treating childhood trauma, grief and loss, and dementia care. She holds a BA from UC Riverside and her MSW from the University of South Florida.

Jill is also the creator of Your Path Through Grief, which is a year-long, comprehensive grief support program which includes pages for therapists. She is also the author of Your Own Path Through Grief, a workbook for those in the grief process to work toward recovery, which can be used individually, in a group, or with a therapist. It is available on Amazon. She’s also the author of the children’s books Someone is sick- how do I say goodbye?  and Someone I love Just Died: What happens now? Several books are in process, with publication expected later this year. Jill is a member of the Purple Cities coalition in Riverside and facilitates a dementia support group monthly.

In this episode we talk about:

  • Jill’s story and how she has been nicknamed the grief whisperer, the rebellious widow, and a black widow and how she is a grief rebel disruptor
  • How Elizabeth Kubler-Ross is used incorrectly – it was designed for anticipatory grief
  • The “common knowledge” about grief that is not really common knowledge
  • How our society commonly avoids death, dying, and grief – even therapists are afraid of funerals
  • What normalizing death can do to help your clients, especially children
  • The importance of integrating a lost loved one into your sense of self
  • The unexpected consequences of grief
  • Physical, cognitive, emotional, and relational effects of grief
  • Therapists’ responsibility when treating a griever
  • The concept of reconstructing your life after a loss
  • The differences between typical loss and traumatic loss
  • How people grieve differently, especially related to roles, development, family dynamics
  • Why to pull back from deifying the dead
  • How therapists can handle when their own grief comes up with grieving clients
  • What therapists (and all people) do wrong when interacting with a griever
  • How celebrities dying can impact our clients

Our Generous Sponsor:

Therapy Reimagined 2019: The Modern Therapist Conference presented by SimplePractice

October 18 and 19th in Universal City, CA – Hang out with the cool #moderntherapists! We are sponsoring our own podcast because we are so excited about the conference!

Grab your continuing education for the year and get trained up on business building, diversity, technology, self-care and all-around amazing professional development this October! Come join us in-person for the same fun we bring to the podcast!!

Use the promo code MTSG50 to get $50 off your full conference ticket.

Relevant Resources:

We’ve pulled together any resources mentioned in this episode and put together some handy-dandy links:

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross

Jill’s Books on Amazon

The Modern Therapists Group on Facebook

Therapy Reimagined 2019

Who we are:

Curt Widhalm is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in private practice in the Los Angeles area. He is a Board Member at Large for the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, a Subject Matter Expert for the California Board of Behavioral Sciences, Adjunct Faculty at Pepperdine University, and a loving husband and father. He is 1/2 great person, 1/2 provocateur, and 1/2 geek, in that order. He dabbles in the dark art of making “dad jokes” and usually has a half-empty cup of coffee somewhere nearby. Learn more about Curt at

Katie Vernoy is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, coach, and consultant. As a helping professional for two decades, she’s navigated the ups and downs of our unique line of work. She’s run her own solo therapy practice, designed innovative clinical programs, built and managed large, thriving teams of service providers, and consulted hundreds of helping professionals on how to build meaningful AND sustainable practices. In her spare time, Katie is secretly siphoning off Curt’s youthful energy, so that she can take over the world. Learn more about Katie at

A Quick Note:

Our opinions are our own. We are only speaking for ourselves – except when we speak for each other, or over each other. We’re working on it.

Our guests are also only speaking for themselves and have their own opinions. We aren’t trying to take their voice, and no one speaks for us either. Mostly because they don’t want to, but hey.

Stay in Touch:


Voice Over by DW McCann

Music by Crystal Grooms Mangano

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