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Author Interview: Natasha Pryde Trujillo, Ph.D.

Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Diane Lunsford is talking with Natasha Pryde Trujillo, Ph.D., author of And She Was Never the Same Again: A Multigenerational Memoir.

FQ: On occasion, I have the opportunity to read a book that is so carefully crafted it lingers long beyond the last word. Your book fits beautifully into this category and I am honored to talk with you today. Before we get into the mechanics of And She Was Never the Same Again, I’d like to ask a few questions about you. During your work with the grief and loss research team throughout your tenure at Purdue University, is there one experience that stands out that you can share and why this moment in time?

TRUJILLO: Thank you, I am honored the book touched you in such a way. Yes, there is! For the first two years in graduate school, I had a family member die the week of finals, right before I was supposed to go home for the summer. I had never really considered the gains/losses framework before going to Purdue, and it was strangely helpful to challenge myself to think through this in real-time and try to find the ways in which myself and my family were being strengthened or were actually even MORE connected as a result of our collective losses. I was also just so deep in the study of death and dying and what it means from a psychological perspective that dealing with those deaths were very eye-opening for me. I remember thinking how strange it was that the exact same thing happened two years in a row, which led to a lot of deep self-reflection about the duality that exists in life, and I think it strongly shaped who I became as a psychologist and the way I approach life personally in terms of acceptance and sitting with uncertainty.

FQ: I worked in the corporate world for many decades and the last 15 years were spent in support of the C-Suite. Have you ever done any workshops with this particular level in an organization? If so, what was your takeaway?

TRUJILLO: I have not, but I have done a fair amount of individual therapy with people in high-status positions of power in the corporate world. A huge takeaway in working with them is the constant high stakes/pressure they feel and the expectation of perfection that oftentimes leaves them feeling hopeless, stuck, and unable to relax. They are so focused on performing and doing that they forget they are also human beings. Vulnerability seems challenging to achieve, thus I notice it does take some time to build rapport and approach therapeutic topics that will alleviate some of this pressure for them. It has been effective to help them problem-solve and embrace a solution-focused approach to the “doing” side of their life initially, but in time, we work to help them figure out WHO they are, and ways we can work towards helping them be human “beings” as well, not just “doers” (and learn to sit with things they can’t control/change).

FQ: I am enamored with your fierce athletic prowess and how you ‘…soak up all things sport…’ If you had to name one athletic endeavor that rises to your top (aside from basketball), what would that be and why?

TRUJILLO: Endurance running hands down. I absolutely hated running when I was younger, but after I graduated from my doc program I found myself relying heavily on long runs to help me clear my mind, connect with myself and my thoughts, and get that endorphin release that comes with exercise. The self-competition I am able to achieve with running is also a great feeling, and it’s one of the reasons that I love it. The mental component of the sport and getting yourself to endure such discomfort while learning what your body is capable of also fascinates me. It’s also a huge lesson in the idea of “just because you can, doesn’t mean you should”, and figuring out what that line is for yourself.

FQ: In the first chapter, I was shocked when I read about your welcome into the world and how you nearly lost your mother a short time after your birth. You describe her character as very much so the caretaker and she ‘comes last’ when it comes to taking care of herself. I understand it’s a foreign concept to someone to embrace the importance of taking care of themself first in order to be effective for others if they have never done this. However, if you were presented with the task to impart this, what would you say?

TRUJILLO: I think to a certain extent we are all tasked with this, whether we are a parent or not. Because of my own medical background, I recognize that when I am not in a good place, I worry/cause strain and pain to those who love me whether it is medically, psychologically, or emotionally. So I think this applies to me now, even though I do not have my own children, especially in the context of the work that I do. I view this as having a responsibility to my clients to be able to do my own work and ensure I am striving towards the best versions of myself in order to fully show up and assist them in my work each and every day. Personally, this also applies to my loved ones. I would say that I try to be aware of this, recognize both the dependence and independence of humanity, and try to move towards the best versions of myself both for me and for those who are important to me.

Author Natasha Pryde Trujillo Ph.D.

FQ: I want you to know there were many raw emotions that surfaced that are related to my own losses as I read your memoir. I have lost both of my parents—my father in a terrible fire and my mother to cancer. I miss them terribly and talk with them often. To this day, I struggle with the passing of my father (and he’s been gone for 30 years). To be clear, I miss my mother dearly as well. However, the day of my father’s death, I had talked with him earlier. I was living in California and he was in my childhood home, Florida. We joked a bit and I had to end the call (or be late for work). Hours later in the evening on that day, I received a call from my sister about the fire and he had perished in it. I applaud you for intentionally writing throughout that we don’t ‘overcome’ or ‘accept’ the loss; rather we learn how to continue without. Is this a ‘comfort’ or ‘coping’ mechanism and what is the difference between the two?

TRUJILLO: Wow, thank you so much for sharing part of your story. This was one of the biggest intentions of writing the book, to allow for my readers to step away from my stories and instead look into your own backgrounds and connect with some of the most significant events you have lived through, desirable or not. I suppose we can call this a coping mechanism, but in many ways I just view this as a very realistic and reasonable component of what it means to be human. I am not necessarily trying to make anyone feel better by acknowledging that we don’t heal from all wounds, but I think it is inherently comforting to know that you aren’t crazy if something that happened 30 years ago still affects you today. I think that fully understanding and embracing the duality of life pushes us to cope by holding the “both/and” scenarios instead of trying to make things black-and-white (because most of life is very gray).

FQ: I think there are many times in our lives when something happens that truly changes our lives and catapults us into a completely different direction. I was very moved by your account of your Grandma Pryde’s death and most importantly, how incredibly important she was to you. I was also angered because of the disgusting controls that were placed on everyone during COVID. I refuse to turn this into a maniacal rant, but I do harbor some anger toward the egregious mishandling on many levels during this entire debacle. I am sorry you were not able to hold your beloved Grandma Pryde’s hand one more time because of the ramped and intentional fear-fest where COVID was at its center. How do you manage this aspect of her passing?

TRUJILLO: I still feel so much anger, every time I think about it. I tend to over-analyze and find myself thinking well what about this, or what about that. I also just picture what little images I have over the phone and try to play that scenario out a little bit (sometimes with different outcomes, and I don’t know if that is helpful or not). In all honestly, I have had so many dreams where I am trying to get to her or I am actually with her but trying to explain something confusing to the medical staff around her. So…. To answer your question I am still going through it. And, I think I always will. I try to be real with myself too though in terms of acceptance, yes I am angry and I don’t like it, but that is what happened, and it will never change. It simply is what occurred, so I talk myself through that a lot too – dealing with the facts, what cannot change, and acknowledging that it won’t change and that the tragedy in that makes my emotions appropriate and natural.

FQ: I loved your chapter on family photos. I love photos and always have. They are memories that are captured in our lives forever and if they are of a time, place, or person that brings us back to the moment, they are priceless. If asked to describe a photo you have that takes you back to a moment of utter joy in your life, could you describe it and why this one?

TRUJILLO: What a cool question. I now pay attention a lot more to what isn’t posed in pictures. What is just real and authentic, not at all created to send a certain message to the viewer (a skill in today’s society thanks to social media). So yes, a picture comes to mind where I am purely and utterly happy, without a care in the world and I am not paying any attention to the photographer or anything else what would take me out of that moment. Those are the pictures that ultimately mean the most to me. I am not looking at the camera, I distinctly remember that I didn’t care about anything else in the moment other than who was beside me. You can feel the love in my eyes and can see the joy across my smile. Why this one? Because it’s the feeling I long for the most – and I’m not sure I can ever recreate it.

FQ: I adored the relationship you had with Grandpa Bill and how he was key in getting you involved with basketball. In particular, your awe of number 21, Darci Arsene. When you mentally processed her attributes and how you coveted to aspire her talents, you made a mental note that you would never take her number. You decided on 12, the reciprocal of her number. I find this fascinating and did you ever share this rationale with anyone prior to writing this book?

TRUJILLO: Not this explicitly, no… I find it pretty nerdy and even a bit embarrassing. I actually got to spend a fair amount of time with Darci and she was incredible. I have long lost touch with her but I think it would be so interesting to figure out where she is now. I highly doubt she ever knew the sort of impact she had on me long-term (although she did know she was my favorite player, I think my mom and/or grandma had told her this). I am not sure I even fully grasped the significance of this for myself until much later in life. It was pretty black-and-white to me at the time in terms of our differences and why I landed on that number.

FQ: You have a bevy of profound epiphanies throughout the book. Did these moments come crashing in like a meteor and write themselves for you? Or, was there a thought about what you wanted to say and you perfected the moments over a few passes?

TRUJILLO: Some moments really do come crashing in. The last sentence of the book…. That was what sparked the entire project for me. I have a lot of sentences form in the early hours of the morning where I have to get up and start typing, or have to send myself a text message with the words that come to mind. For better or worse, I think deeply like this so much of the time, and once I get going I can really get to a flow state, very similar to what I try to help my athletes achieve in their sport. When you’re in this state, you are able to trust yourself and let things come to you. There was PLENTY of sentences though that I wrote over and over and over again and really had to fight my perfectionism on. There were many I thought over with my editor too and we went back and forth with a few different ways to present things. So, a little of both overall.

FQ: In line with my previous question, another sentence that stands out for me is: “To remember what we had is to remember what we lost.” Wow! Pow! Is this one of those times when the sentence wrote for you?

TRUJILLO: I have always been an avid lover of language, so these sorts of things come to me a lot just randomly. Sometimes while running or sitting with my own grief, sometimes while talking to others, or sometimes while reading/watching or listening to something that induces deep reflection. Again, I also really connect with the idea of the duality within life, so that has me trying to sit with the both/ands a lot more and get comfortable with all of the conflict and confusion that life presents. Life is bittersweet, so I am often looking to better describe that and this sentence is one of those examples.

FQ: There are so many questions I would like to ask. The last one I will ask without providing a spoiler. The last sentence of your book: “…there may yet be much unwritten in our story, and I welcome a day when it can be penned.” This bodes my question: Are you working on your next book and if so, when can we expect to see it?

TRUJILLO: I have lots of essays written that I think could turn into another project, but nothing has been solidified. I am so curious to see how this book will play out and what I and others will think of it over time, so I am trying to sit with where things are now and let that soak in before deciding whether or not I want to write again. Honestly, just surviving with my own grief was the basis for this project and I hadn’t thought much about what would happen once it was done, there is much to still be unraveled, as I point out.

FQ: Thank you for the pleasure of reading And She Was Never the Same Again. I thoroughly enjoyed every word and am honored to have had the opportunity to review it.

For more information on And She Was Never the Same Again: A Multigenerational Memoir, please visit the author's website at:

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