Yvonne Kaye Ph.D. MSC. is an international speaker with subjects ranging from Spirit Soaring, Laughter Roaring, to post traumatic stress disorder and bereavement.
She is a Storyteller, Addictionist, Thanatologist, Care-sharer,veteran radio talk show host, Interfaith Minister, author, columnist, keynote speaker/trainer for corporations.
Her work is eclectic and appropriate for all professions, Veterans Administration, and many others, believing in the power of the human spirit. Involved with long term illness, post trauma and crises, Dr. Kaye is a strong advocate of humor and spirituality.
She uses her own life experiences as a basis of her work which is now involved with First Responders, Nurses, Veterans suffering with PTSD , and addiction. She is a Spiritual Coach and her philosophy is “Laughter is the miracle healer”. Dr. Kaye received the prestigious Matty Muir Award for work with victims of crime.
Dr. Yvonne Kaye is in a constant state of transition. During her long and colorful life, she has experienced just about every challenge in terms of personal growth and change.
She has an astute understanding of the demands of life on people together with the necessity to support healthy self esteem. She believes that life offers great opportunities and great demands. Self worth is the basis of being able to deal with such inevitable change. Life does not stand still.
Yvonne has many strengths she wishes to share with others. She has not forgotten her background believing most sincerely, if she could travel to where she is today, from whence she came, anyone can do it. She has proven this by working with people who didn’t believe in themselves and carried messages given to them as children. They are very successful today. She states categorically that her most important asset is humor believing it is underrated healing.
Dr. Kaye is especially effective as a keynote speaker. Her eclectic approach appeals to all professional, corporate and healing arts. She is a spiritual woman meaning in her life, of the spirit, her spirit. She has presented at prestigious institutions, such as the united nations, international conferences and is a strong advocate of support groups. She has been granted many awards including the Matti Muir award for working with victims of violence and PTSD in all areas. Radio talk show host, published author, Thanatologist, addictionist, mother, grandmother, story teller. She is mental health’s answer to Erma Bombeck.
We are excited to have Dr. Yvonne on our panel and looking forward to this thought provoking conversation.
I was born in London, United Kingdom in September 1933. I don’t remember a lot about my family of origin other than I felt different. I was born to a British Jewish mother and an Irish Catholic father who I never met. I felt like a secret. Now I stand in the light, revealing all that I am.
In September of 1939, the extended family was on holiday in Blean, Canterbury, outside London. Shortly before my sixth birthday, war broke out in Europe and my family just up and left me there to go back to London. Nothing was said nor explained. I learned early on that apparently children had no need to know.
When I was put on the bus with a small suitcase and label on my coat, my mother said nothing, including why this was happening. She left without saying goodbye. When I arrived at the village in Somerset in the West of England, I was so frightened that I was obedient and when an elderly man said, ‘I’ll take this one,’ I took his hand and thought nothing of it. He was kind. His wife and daughter were not” I stayed for six months, with no word from home so I knew fear and abandonment from a very early age. That event started the lessons I was to learn through my somewhat colourful life!
When I returned to London, the Luftwaffe attacks started in earnest, so my childhood was rather like what is being seen currently in Ukraine although they have it worse as we were not invaded. We were attacked from the skies, they from both the ground and air. The next six years were filled with terror and the constant threat of death. When I hear people complain today about wearing a piece of linen over their mouths and noses, I tell them that as a little girl I wore a full-face rubber mask which weighed about six pounds, carrying it all the time in a cardboard box with string, over my shoulder. That war formed my life, who I am today, my ‘watch me’ personality and compassion. We were bombed out twice, so I understand homelessness and hunger. The people who influenced my life from when I was eight years old, came out to the street, took us in and fed us with little more than we had. I told myself at eight years old “I want to be like them when I grow up,” and I am. The experience shaped my professions, ultimately and certainly my attitude toward life. I believe in the power of the human spirit.
In that wisdom I learned during those six years, followed by five years of fascism led by Oswald Mosley, who attacked areas of London occupied mainly by people of colour and the Jewish communities, has been incredibly powerful. I could write an entire article just on those years. I learned so much about how to deal with fear, to ask for help, to speak my peace – yes, peace, not piece. The brutality of those years remains with me as I am seeing them today. As a woman, my statements were often challenged. However, my ‘watch me’ personality came to the foreground, and I spoke openly and honestly, also admitted that yes, I am a passionate and emotional woman with what I believe. Funny how openness and honesty can win the day and those who don’t ‘get it’ are not important anyway. I was taught – run with the winners!
I have had so many challenges in my life – it would take a book!!!! I will list some of them. Surviving near death so many times. Now knowing who my father was. Being told from a very young age that I wouldn’t amount to anything. Born at a time when girls were not allowed to go to University regardless of their intelligence. Had to wait until I was 36 to deal with that one!!!!! Coming to America. Didn’t want to leave England with four young children and an absentee husband, knowing no one here. Staying in a 25-year marriage until I got a magical divorce which I asked for as a gift for our anniversary. (started living then). Getting work in this country. Going to University while working full time and having my four children with me. I could go on and on. One particular situation was being a woman keynoter when men were usually chosen. With these challenges I learned that words had power. I know how to use them carefully now. Most powerful? Nothing is hard or difficult. Everything is a challenge, and most people can rise to a challenge.
I started worked at the National Association for Mental Health in London as a secretary to a social worker. She saw something in me I didn’t see. I was 18. She guided me to a store system that trained young people to become Management which taught me a great deal about people. Then I became involved in challenges regarding crime prevention and worked with victims – that’s where it really began. The grief work was overwhelming and again, my experiences in the war came into fruition. To this day, my passion is Thanatology – the study of death and grief from the Greek, Thanatopsis. My specialty is working with families who have lost a child to death by any means, in particular, homicide. I am involved with those who have been confronted with violence although I do work with any kind of loss. It is the type of profession that one cannot pursue unless they are totally involved. It is a 24/7 commitment. For years I was a crisis worker, doing interventions in somewhat dangerous areas. I suppose I relate to veterans so well as we have a similar condition of heightened adrenalin. My other professions are close to my heart also. I am an addictionist, serving people in recovery. I am also an ordained Interfaith Minister. Interesting work as we are open to all religions and none. I ask Agnostics and Atheists, what takes their breath away as whatever that is would be their Higher Power – like the Universe, the stars, and even though they can’t see it, the air. People believe that what I do is morbid. Quite the contrary. I see a level of love that astonishes me. Love is a huge part of my commitment to people, and I have never found a well documented description of the word. We just live it.
Today, I am involved deeply in grief and loss. It is dealing with this kind of emotional pain that keeps the humility in my life healthy. I am in awe of those who suffer with this condition, get up every day and do what has to be done. I have cases where I don’t know how they get up in the mornings – they do. It is so rewarding to be with these incredible people. I have learned so much from them and I am grateful. I see a lot of courage with people in recovery. It takes guts for them to look within and learn they are in control of their own emotions. To learn about living one day at a time and not projecting. I am a perpetual student of the human condition. My own experiences help me to understand the dilemmas of others. I learn from everybody I see and listen to. This is something I read every day to myself and when I present to people who are in pain and recovery.
A MEDICINE WOMAN’S PRAYER. “I will not rescue you, for you are not powerless. I will not fix you, as you are not broken. I will not heal you for I see you in your wholeness. I will walk with you through the darkness as you remember your light.”-author unknown.
So beautiful. Another writing I read is from Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross who was also one of my mentors. “The most beautiful people in the world are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness and a deep loving concern Beautiful people don’t just happen.”
These readings are from people who have been in such circumstances that allow them to truly understand. They are real and authentic – they are my teachers. I will never graduate from this programme. My primary Mentor was Dr. Viktor Frankl who wrote about choice whilst a prisoner in Auschwitz.
My podcast, How The Hell Did I Get Here From There?, is my journey from the depths to awareness and gratitude. I hear interviews with a lot of well-known highly knowledgeable people, on various platforms. However, they are not available so if something profound happens to a listener and they cannot find the presenter, which is unacceptable. The people I interview fully understand the meaning of the title. We all want to know the answer to the question: How did you get to where you are and what can you teach me? They are brilliant – so open and honest. They consistently surprise me with a level of truth that is refreshing. It has been a journey for me as now and again I record one with me – just me speaking my truth and observations. It is another avenue for people hearing options to lifestyles, to emotional peace and the glass is half full outlook.
The Women’s Movement has grown exquisitely. We have our work to do more now than ever. I walked with Gloria Steinem in the 70s and although we didn’t achieve all our goals, we did change quite a reasonable amount. Now we are facing going backwards therefore we have to be organised. To continue to fight for women’s rights against the white men who think otherwise, as well as the women who think as they do – the so-called Right to Life movement. Madeleine Albright who I admired enormously said “There’s a special place in hell for women who do not support women.”
My brain can’t absorb women who speak against those would make such a decision. Elie Weisel said, “Silence means acceptance.” I do not accept the lies told about women’s health organizations and what is the argument the right to lifers have when doctors and nurses are killed. If it weren’t so pathetic it would be laughable, when people are taking away other’s rights to their own lives. The Women’s Movement has to concentrate entirely at this time, on women’s rights. We have to stop the evil broadcasts or programmes on computers, texts, and emails whose arguments are lethal. I really believe these things can be achieved with the right leaders. Let’s hope they emerge.
The proudest moments in my life are multifaceted, from watching someone who was destined to end his life through drugs, to him becoming a responsible work person with a wife and son. Then being invited to present at the United Nations in 1988. The subject was drug trafficking, and I was highly honoured. Treated like royalty too.
I have been given a new name. Queenager. I sound like the Queen and behave like a teenager sometimes. So flattering. I don’t like to say I am proud of my children. Somehow it sounds condescending to me and I want them to be proud of themselves. What all of them have overcome is quite astonishing and I am indeed blessed to have four children – adults – who have a wonderful work ethic, are kind and compassionate and so damn funny. Thank heavens for humour. Our family has dark humour – very dark and it works for us although even when we came here and they were very young, they kept their British humour which can be frequently misunderstood! We think fast on our feet, and I believe in the power of apologies! When they were younger and we would go out to dinner, I always wanted to sit at another table as when they are in each other’s company they can be quite gross!!! Now that’s something to be proud of!!! I suppose in some odd way, I am proud of being a survivor/thriver of the life I was given.
I have been in the field of human services in one way or another for seventy years. We need more people now who truly understand kindness and have the ability to listen. We have to remove the stigma of mental illness – the silent disease. For those suffering in any way, please go for help. I am a strong believer in therapy. Was in it myself for years. You are worth it. When one is discouraged, it is time to reach out to support groups – don’t be too proud. They are all there for a purpose and help one another in glorious ways. It is people like these who keep me motivated. Now that we are in ageism, I recommend the following. Do not listen to people who tell you what you can and can’t do, should and shouldn’t do. Learn assertiveness and be aware of the gift you are to the Universe. Learn to love yourself and stay away from toxic people and situations as best you can. Being with certain people can bring happiness but do not say they make you happy. That is giving your power away. If they make you happy, they can make you sad, angry, and defeated. Remember. I will not fix you as you are not broken. Make a commitment to yourself that you will do whatever it takes. Be well and conquer!
I really don’t know what the future holds for me. In spite of what I have been through, I have been blessed. When I was 55 years old, I received an unexpected gift named John. I never expected to receive unconditional love and certainly was not looking for it. It took me a while to believe he was real and then the learning began. A rare man who told people he fell in love with my brain as with the few men that had been in my life, they did what they could to ‘keep me in my place.’ He understood the war. At 17 he went into combat in the Royal Navy. As a Scientist he taught me the power of the Universe and he was one of the funniest men I ever knew even when he had three cancers and died in Hospice at home. Funny to the end. Most of all, I had to learn about myself, and he was my greatest teacher.
What I would like to do is to train bereavement counselors how to deal with the very deepest of emotional pain. That loss is a huge subject and to understand their own boundaries. One of the best poems I ever read which describes the needs of bereaved parents is by Angela Miller. She writes, “My Child died. I don’t need advice. All I need is for you to gently close your mouth and open wide your heart and walk with me until I can see colour again.” This says it all. Blessings to you all.
One metaphor that can apply to any major life change but is particularly poignant when applied to loss and grief, is that of a roller coaster. My dear friend Edie Weinstein who appeared in this magazine speaks of it like this, “What occurred to me is that it is not like the typical carnival ride since that one is time-limited, you know you are going to get off in five minutes and you can predict the twists and turns since you can see the track before you sit down. With grief, there is no way to tell how long the ride will last, the track changes once you are on board and much of the time, you feel like you are riding upside down. You are also not likely to lift your arms over your head and yell, “Whhhheeee!” Be sure to buckle your seatbelt and keep your hands on the bar for support. It is quite the wild ride.