A Tribute to Sukie Miller: May Her Journey Continue

A Tribute to Sukie Miller: May Her Journey Continue

Sukie-MillerSukie Miller, Ph.D. was a force of nature. She brought gusto to every moment of every day. Her insights about culture, the after death realms, and depth psychology were spell-binding. Her enthusiasm for life was contagious. Her friendship was deep and true. As she approached the end of her embodiment, she was open to the next adventure  with characteristic panache. After a protracted illness that she would not let defeat her, she died on December 18, 2013.

Sukie was a psychotherapist who dedicated her life to understanding human nature in all its complexities. Her seminal book, After Death, Mapping the Journey, with Suzanne Lipsett, offered a pioneering effort to record the terrain of the afterlife.  She observed the historical and cultural dimensions of the question: what happens when we die?  Her work illustrated the various ways in which death has captured our attention for centuries. At the heart of her work she shared a cross-cultural analysis of the afterlife that sought to find patterns that arise in different cultures and social groups. In all of her engagements with myriad worldviews and belief systems, her goal was always to help reduce the suffering that people experience around death.

Miller surveyed diverse worldviews and wisdom traditions, including India, Brazil, Indonesia, West Africa, and the United States. She shared her experiences with patients during psychotherapy, offering personal anecdotes and stories about the diverse ways people hold the thought of death. She worked with colleagues to create The Afterdeath Inventory and wove together interviews she conducted with religious leaders and scientists to formulate a model. From this research, she articulated four distinct stages of the afterdeath. These include waiting, judgment, possibilities, and return.

Building on this work and to help alleviate the pain families express when of loosing a child, Miller published Finding Hope When a Child Dies: What Other Cultures Can Teach Us. In this work, she addressed the common perception that the death of a child is both tragic and somehow unnatural. She noted that parents can feel guilty and believe they are somehow being punished for something they did or did not do. She gave voice in this work to the diverse ways in which people in different cultures experience the death of a child, offering insights that are both surprising and comforting to the readers. Her stories speak to healing and resilience to anyone who has experienced the loss of a child.

Sukie was a seeker of truth and a visionary thinker. She had been a founding director of the Esalen Institute. She was a member of the Board of the Jung Institute of San Francisco and the Board of Medical Quality Assurance for the State of California.  She founded the pioneering Institute for the Study of Humanistic Medicine in 1972. She then became a founder and director of the Institute for the Study of the Afterdeath. She was married to Arthur Miller, who remained a life long friend and trusted colleague decades after their divorce.

Years ago, Sukie underwent a liver transplant. That and other health complexities called her to her own transformative healing journey.  With her characteristic courage, she followed her passion for Brazil and moved there to start a new life. She remained there for many years before deciding to return to her city of origin, New York. As I sit in my garden, reflecting on this special soul, I am listening for her spirit on the wind.