On New Year’s Eve 2010, Dayle E. Spencer received a phone call that would forever alter the course of her life, while also aligning with it perfectly.
Her vibrant and ambitious, 28-year-old daughter Allie Powell had fainted, hit her head, and was admitted to a hospital with the flu. Two days later, Allie was dead – a rogue strain of the virus violently attacking her heart. Just one week after their beautiful daughter moved to Boston to pursue a long-term relationship and higher education, Dayle and her husband Will Spencer were left to pick up the pieces after their family’s devastating loss.
“We just passed the four-year mark of losing Allie,” Dayle said. “Let me tell you, grief is a very low level of consciousness; you can’t stay there. It’s not about denying what’s happening or running away, but you can’t be there forever.”
Dayle has founded an education program at the prestigious Emory University, worked with Jimmy Carter on a Nobel Peace Prize-winning project, organized negotiations for war-torn nations, and consulted for Fortune 500 companies – but the challenge of fighting for life after her daughter’s death was like none she had ever faced.
“When something bad happens, we have a choice to make, and that reminds us that even in the darkest hour, we are not powerless,” Dayle said. “I could have seen myself as a tragic figure and I probably would have gotten a lot of sympathy, but I chose not to hold myself in victimhood. It was the single, most important decision I’ve ever made.”
When it came time to spread Allie’s ashes, Will and Dayle went back to Maui – where they had raised Allie – to let her go where the ocean meets the shores of Lahaina, Hawaii. It was a moment of restoration and peace for Dayle on the journey to joy. Then, she began writing. Dayle finished her first book: “Loving Allie: Transforming the Journey of Loss” and is coupling it with in-person workshops to reach out to those wading through grief.
Dayle will host a Loving Spirit Workshop on March 7 and 8 at the Denver Marriott Tech Center and she intends to keep her workshop to less than 50 people. “It’s meant to be more intimate so that a participant who is in grief feels seen, heard, validated,” she said. “It will be interactive and experiential, not just a lecture. My hope is you will be there participating and learning, for yourself, and that it will help you in your healing process.” To register for the workshop, visit www.daylespencer.com. Early registration is encouraged, as spots are limited.
In their 20 years living on Maui, the Spencers operated a consulting practice called the Maui Transitions Center. Will and Dayle worked with business clients, providing team building, strategic planning and even grief counseling services.
“When Allie died, we had to start taking our own advice,” Dayle said. “The very things we told our clients they needed to do to find peace, joy, happiness – now we needed to do them. So, we did, and we started the healing process.” But for Dayle, grief extends beyond mourning the loss of loved ones. “Aging, retirement, divorce – people deal with so many types of loss. Even military vets who return home with lost limbs or emotional trauma, it all needs to be grieved.”
When Dayle talks about loss – it doesn’t seem so awful. Her wise and encouraging voice describes it as a journey, rather than a single, painful event in time. “You have to reframe what’s happened and see it as the start of the journey; a journey involves movement, proceeding from one place to another place – a place of healing,” she said.
Life after Allie is full, and her daughter’s legacy lives on in her work – every article, workshop and relationship is infused with Allie’s spirit and Dayle’s will to choose a joyful, restored life after loss. She believes the same can be true for anyone who is grieving a loss.
“I used to be a federal prosecutor, so when I was in grief, I thought of it as a life sentence without parole,” Dayle said. “Now, I’ve realized it doesn’t have to be that way; it is possible to move beyond. If you’ve already lived through it, you’re still here and I can help you see how to move beyond.”