From Grief to Healing: An Up-close Interview with Christine Jette

by Melanie Harris
The author of 4 books on the Tarot, Christine Jette is an expert on cartomancy.  Having lost her father in 1994 and her mother in 2006, she's also an expert on grief.  In this holiday season of festive merrymaking, many people who have had similar experiences of loss become increasingly depressed.  We recently caught up with Ms. Jette to ask her how the Tarot can be used to cope with grief.  The following is our candid interview in which Christine discusses her personal sorrows and the techniques she has used to heal.

Tarot Reflections: When and how did you get involved with the Tarot?
Christine Jette: I grew up on a large farm in central Ohio rather isolated from the outside world. I went to school in a tiny rural town.  I was raised in a Christian culture and attended a Presbyterian church, but I never heard my parents once discuss or comment on any occult or esoteric subject. I grew up without knowing that Tarot cards or astrology existed.
In the early 70's, while in college, I walked by a dorm room. The door was open. A fellow student was giving a Tarot reading to a friend. I had never seen Tarot cards before. I stopped, mesmerized. What are you doing? From that point on in college, I couldn't get enough information about the Tarot, but information was in short supply. 
TR: Why was that?
CJ: Tarot was not so widely accepted or popular thirty-five years ago. Not a lot of decks existed and finding a Tarot book in a mainstream bookstore was impossible. I'd have to go to an "occult shop" some twenty miles away to locate anything related to the Tarot, including decks. The first deck I bought was Rider-Waite and the first tarot book I ever read was by Eden Gray. 
TR: So, once you found some information, did you dive right in?
CJ: Tarot stayed on the periphery of my life for the next 20 years. During this time, I also studied astrology, energetic healing and feminine spirituality. I'd read for a few friends, or myself, but I kept my "other life" a secret from my family of origin. I knew they would misunderstand, no matter what I told them, and it didn't seem worth the effort of trying to explain myself. 
TR: So, what inspired you to write four books on the Tarot?
CJ: In 1995, I had a short dream: Someone shouted, "Study the Tarot in depth, Christine." That was it, no details. So, I studied the Tarot in depth, but I kept asking myself why. By that time, a lot of decks and books were available and I read everything I could get my hands on about the Tarot. I was lucky enough to start with the wonderful Tarot for Your Self by Mary K. Greer. Her work made the Tarot come alive for me. 
I get a reading by a professional once a year, never more than twice a year. I call it "checking in with the universe." For about ten years, my readings centered on the fact I was supposed to be writing, but no reader could tell me the subject of my writing. I was clueless. In 1998, I had a reading by Laurie Cabot in Salem, Massachusetts. I asked the same old question: Write what? She answered, "Gothic Tarot? Does that make any sense to you? It doesn't to me." 
In that one moment, I knew what she meant down to the tips of my toes. I wrote the outline to Tarot Shadow Work in the Salem train station as I waited to go back to Boston. I completed the book in six months. Two publishers accepted the manuscript. Never have two words (Gothic Tarot) so completely changed my life. 
TR: I'm not sure I understand what is meant by the phrase "Gothic Tarot."
CJ: In the strictest sense of the word, Gothic refers to a group of Germanic people; but it also describes a literary style of writing, type of architecture or kind of print, such as a Gothic font. The most common definition involves an alluring darkness, something that is at once abhorrent and compelling. As a fan of Gothic literature, the term 'Gothic Tarot' made complete sense to me. 
TR: Can you tell me a bit about the books you've authored?
CJ: The first book, Tarot Shadow Work, looks at ways to release past pain and is a book of recovery. The second, Tarot for the Healing Heart, offers ideas on healing body, mind and spirit. The third one, Tarot for All Seasons, celebrates life and is much more playful. The fourth, Professional Tarot, gives the Tarot to the next generation, either through teaching or reading for others. The books form a circle of life: heal the past, look at the present, celebrate life and give to the future. I didn't plan it that way. It just happened. 
TR: How did you get the idea to use the Tarot cards to deal with grief? 
CJ: My answer relates to using the cards for working through grief and using them for healing. I cannot separate the two. 
I have had problems with chronic gastric ulcers for years.  About six years ago the doctor said, "Change whatever it is you're doing, Christine, or you're going to lose part of your stomach." It was mind-numbing advice. Change what?
After I had completed Tarot Shadow Work, I re-read Cynthia Giles' Methods, Mastery and More. She has a wonderful chapter called "Wellness: Rejoining Body and Mind."  Her work was most important to me in looking at the Tarot for use in healing. 
I started working with the cards because I sensed they might reveal my unconscious 
motivations. I noticed a lot of Swords. I thought that meant surgery, but as I kept track in a journal and meditated, I realized it meant painful memories and past hurts. When I drew the Queen of Swords, it told me I had unresolved grief issues that were literally eating me alive. 
I started going to a therapist and, sure enough, a lot of painful stuff came up before I could heal.  As ironic as it seems, I had to face more shadows (after I had written the shadow book) before I was free to write a second book. 
As I kept my commitment to work with a therapist over the long haul, my ulcer got better, too.  I thought, oh, I have to share this with people and Tarot for the Healing Heart was born. It is dedicated to my therapist Kathleen.  She was killed in a freak hiking accident one year later-on my birthday. 
TR: So, how did you come up with your actual techniques that you have used for coping with grief?
CJ: Learning to find meaning in life after the death of a loved one is not easy. The healing from grief is like healing from a burn-we will heal but we will always have scars and things are never the same again. My pain is not greater than anyone else's pain. We all experience loss. When it comes to grief, pain is pain. I asked myself how I could incorporate sound counseling principles into a reading that would actually help someone in the painful journey of loss. I read all I could about grief and grief therapy. 

I took the six key goals of grief counseling-accepting the loss without denial, experiencing the pain of grief in a safe way, adjusting to a new world without the loved one, withdrawing emotional energy from the loss, saying goodbye with love, and moving forward with loving memories in a new and forever changed world-and turned them into the key elements of a grief Tarot layout that you can find in Tarot for the Healing Heart. I also wrote a meditation using the Death Tarot card called "Preparing to Live." It is about the fact that we all die and helps us focus on authentic living by not taking anything for granted.   
TR: Can you tell me a bit more about the healing aspects of the Tarot?
CJ: I think I first need to distinguish between the terms "healing" and "curing" so there is no confusion here. In modern medicine, healing is related to a return to function. If we have a broken leg, for example, the bones will heal and we will walk again.  In the broadest sense of the word, healing may not cure catastrophic diseases such as AIDS or cancer. But healing does restore an inner order to persons with serious illness. This restoration of balance fosters emotional strength, peace of mind, acceptance and an inner knowing of wholeness.  If we consider healing to be an integration of physical, emotional, mental and spiritual energies, then healing can take place whether or not there is a return to function.  Healing, as I use the word, is not the absence of disease-it's the presence of insight.
All healing, whether by traditional or nontraditional means, occurs within us, working in cooperation with nature and perhaps the assistance of others. Think of it this way: A doctor may perform the surgery but the doctor doesn't heal the incision-you do.
Good ideas, hunches, intuition and solutions to unsolvable problems come from a deep source of inner knowing central to your being. It is your divine inner spark, and I call it the healer within. The most sacred tool we have for healing is the ability to listen to the still small voice within that tells us what health and happiness mean to us. 
No area of our lives can be isolated from health problems. Disease (which literally means being "out of ease") is a message to examine the choices we are making. Wellness is mind, body and spirit in balance. 
Tarot images are filled with healing energies that direct us towards wholeness. The cards reveal areas that are out of balance and give advice on the best ways to restore order that support the healing process. Within this redirection, healing occurs. 
As I write in all of my books, whatever works, works. If a method moves us closer to wholeness, such as traditional forms of therapy, it is worthy of our attention. Working with the Tarot for healing does not have to be an all-or-nothing choice. Ancient and modern methods really can coexist. Each is valuable in its own way because each offers unique insights that can be combined for a fuller picture of you.
A word of caution here: using the Tarot for healing compliments, but does not replace, standard medical care. Tarot work supplements professional care, bringing the unconscious mind into harmony with the physical self to assist the healing process. Working with the Tarot cards can help you understand the reasons behind disease, but it does not diagnose, treat or prescribe. If you have symptoms, please contact a qualified health professional.
TR:  So, in addition to seeing a doctor if necessary, what are some ways to maximize the Tarot's healing power?
CJ: The Tarot cards are only as useful as you make them. They can sit on your desk and do nothing, or be sources of insight, but nothing matters if you don't back the insight up with real world healing action. 
Consider, too, that healing is a lifestyle.  We are too busy! We allow ourselves to be bombarded with constant electronic stimuli. We cannot listen to the still small voice within (the voice of healing) above the din of brain-numbing busyness 
In order to replenish ourselves at the well of inspiration we need to slow down, if only for 20 minutes a day. Take the time to sit still and listen to the silence.  
A funny thing happens when we take the time to hear the inner voice of healing: Instead of withdrawing from the world, we participate more fully in it because we are now doing the things we were meant to do instead of the things we feel forced to do. 
We each must find our own ways to connect to a healing source that is greater than ourselves. Think of what you loved to do naturally as a child and there you will find clues to the creative (intuitive) activities that support the healing process. 
TR: When using the Tarot for meditations and readings to help cope with grief, how important is it to follow a prescribed method?
CJ: While grief and loss are universal human experiences, grief is also deeply personal and there is no right and wrong way to grieve. Likewise, there is no right and wrong way to work with the Tarot cards for meditations and readings to cope with grief. Read everything you can about grief, the Tarot, and meditation from all kinds of philosophies. Keep what makes sense to you and discard the rest. No one author has the all the answers and if he or she says she does, throw the book away. You don't need that kind of control in your life-especially when you are grieving. 
TR: Can you talk about some specific healing exercises that those of us who are coping with grief might consider?
CJ: Your heart will tell you what you need to do in order to grieve. When you are working with the Tarot because you are grieving, ask yourself one question: Does the Tarot comfort me?  Follow inner guidance. 
You may want to pull a card a day for a grief theme, keep a grief journal, or program a grief dream based on a certain Tarot card that attracts you or keeps repeating itself. But here is the most beautiful mystery: as you work with the cards, they start to reveal how to work with them. 
Over time, you'll feel drawn to a certain way of relating to them, such as Tarot grief poetry or drawing pictures of your own grief cards, and that is only revealed after you start to work with them. An old saying tells me to do the thing and the power will come. Not until we do the thing (work with Tarot) does its power reveal itself to us  Just like the Fool, we have to take that darned leap of faith, sometimes, before we know why.
TR: Any new books in your future?
CJ: Yes, I have two books in the planning stage but they are not related to the Tarot.  My father was a WWII veteran.  After my mother died, my sister and I found a large suitcase full of all the letters that Dad wrote home while he was overseas in combat for three years. They are sad, funny, scary and poignant. He was a wonderful writer and his letters are an important part of American history in a freeze frame of time. I plan to make them into a WW II memoir for one of my upcoming books.
I've done a lot of writing about grief on my web site, and the second book will be for grievers and those who want to help grievers during one of life's most painful journeys.
TR: Anything else we should know about you?
CJ: I am a registered nurse (RN) and I have a Bachelor of Arts degree (BA) in psychology, so the healing and counseling aspect of the Tarot cards came naturally to me. I'm not much of a joiner, but I did recently become a member of the ATA. My knowledge of the Tarot is self-taught through the fine works of Mary K. Greer, Rachel Pollack, Cynthia Giles, Sally Nichols, Stephen Arroyo, Rose Gwain, Vicki Noble, Juliet Sharman-Burke, Gail Fairfield, Janina Renee and many, many others. I have learned something useful in every Tarot book that I've read. 

Christine Jette invites everyone to visit her two web sites: is a site that explores many topics including Tarot, astrology, ghosts, and grieving.  There is a lot of unique, timely information here for the beginning or advanced Tarot reader, as well as anyone experiencing grief or loss. This one is a guide for nonfiction writers.  Christine says, "The information on the site worked for me. It can work for you, too. The greatest asset you have as a writer is belief in your own talent."  

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