Cleo explains how she became a grief
therapist and started the Contact Project
I got interested in grief therapy when I struggled with
my own grieving after Grampa died. I was a doctoral
student in clinical psychology then, and barely managed
to stick with it in the face of my overwhelming sorrow. I
knew Grampa would never want me to quit, so I learned
to focus on my positive memories of him to keep me
going. It worked, and inspired me to go on for extra
training to become a certified grief counselor. Death
fascinates me because it’s both mysterious and
inevitable. Helping people cope with it has become the
focus of my practice. It’s a universal issue, although
most people don’t like to think about it.
My current approach to grief therapy isn’t the most
traditional one, but  it’s not unique either. After my first
few years in practice, I moved away from steering people
through the stages of the grief process. I found that
what causes people the most pain is a need to resolve
unfinished business with their dead loved ones So I
began using a process that helps them work through
bottled-up feelings and complete their relationship with
the person who has died.
Sounds pretty reasonable so far, right? Well here’s
where it gets a little unusual—some would say weird or
even flaky. The Contact Project is where I help people
see and actually talk with dead family members or friends
using a process I discovered while trying to reach
Grampa after he died. Yes, I know. Sounds kind of wavy-
gravy, but that isn’t me. I may not follow mainstream
methods, but my project is respectable. It’s not like I’m
telling fortunes over the internet or running some 900
psychic hotline scam.
Now, to my amazement, the Contact Project is an actual
funded project. I have an endowment from a man who
was able to contact a family member and wanted to help
other people do the same. His first name is Bruce. I can’
t tell you his last name because, even though he’s very
high on the project, he doesn’t want to be publicly
connected to it. Go figure.
Anyway, a friend referred Bruce to me for grief therapy
not long after I first set up the apparition chamber. His
daughter had died from a drug overdose. He was
devastated because his relationship with her had been
stormy for several years before she died. I’m not sure
he knew how much he loved her until she was gone.
He was able to reach his daughter. It was only once—but
he felt immensely better afterward. He told me they had
each acknowledged their mistakes, forgiven each other
and made up. He was able to say goodbye to her and
feel okay about that. He was almost floating around the
room when he told me about it—like he’d gotten free
from a heavy chain that had been weighing him down.
Bruce’s contact with his daughter changed him. He went
from feeling isolated and alone with his bottled-up grief,
to being able to remember and talk about the good
parts of his relationship with his daughter and the love
he felt for her. He wanted other people to have the
opportunity to benefit from the process the way he did.
So he decided to use some of the fortune he’d made in
high-tech businesses to fund the Contact Project. There
are some conditions as to who qualifies and what kind of
records I keep, but basically it’s my show to run. Which,
I admit, is mind-boggling—and a lot of fun.
The contact process doesn’t always work, and people
rarely get what they expect, but many get some
satisfying communication. Most of them can only make
contact once or sometimes twice, so it’s not like they
have the deceased back for nightly conversation. But
overall it helps.
The exception to the one-or-two-contacts rule so far is
Tyler, who now visits me whenever he gets a notion to
do it. He was the first dead person I ever talked to, and
oddly he was someone I didn’t even know. He showed
up a couple of years ago while I was trying for about the
hundredth time to contact Grampa, who had been dead
for five years.
I’ve learned to take Tyler seriously, even though he has
an annoying way of giving me instructions that are
mostly confusing. I don’t take well to being told what to
do, so I more or less ignored his suggestions in the
beginning. But last year I got into a jam I would have
avoided if I’d taken his advice, and to my surprise he
pretty much got me out of it, so ever since then, I’ve
paid attention.
 
Cleopatra
(Cleo) Sims
Height: 5’4”
Weight: 110
Hair: Brown
Eyes: Green
Description: I
am slight, of
average height. I
wear my hair
short to medium
length, but never
long—I don’t
want to
encourage any
comparisons with
Elizabeth Taylor
in the Cleopatra
movie. I have
bangs and my
hair is slightly
curly.
Sign: Scorpio
(curious,
stubborn,
determined) I’m
a Scorpio, which
describes me
well. When I
have a question,
I keep probing
until I find what I’
m looking for.
Dominant trait:
Curiosity. Most
people who
describe me
would probably
say I ask too
many questions.
And I’ve tried to
stop asking so
many questions
because I can
see that people
find it unnerving.
Favorite
Activities:
I love
painting and still
have a studio
where I can work
on it.
I also love the
active, outdoor
Boulder lifestyle,
and the
restaurants, and
the music. I like
to go to high-
energy places,
where there are
lots of people
around. At the
same time, I’m
not one of those
people who
always wants to
be in a group. My
solitary time in
my studio is
some of my most
precious time.
Tyler
Description: A
spirit,
apparition or
ghost who
takes the form
of a young male
surfer.
Favorite
Saying:
Dude,
ride the wave!
Favorite
Activity:

Surfing. There's
nothing else
like it. It's
totally natural
and awesome.
Favorite
movie:
Endless
Summer.
About Cleo & Tyler