—By Daniel Flores & Ryan Ognek
Professor Caffie Risher head of Public Speaking at Passaic County Community College, has achieved a lot. She has earned two degrees, a bachelor’s in communications from Fairleigh Dickinson University, a Masters of Arts from Seton Hall New Brunswick as well as a seminary degree. She teaches public speaking, business writing, business communication as well as the Death and Dying class. She also does the prayer during graduations at PCCC.
Although being a professor was not originally something she thought she was going to do, both a friend and a professor she took in undergrad told her she should consider the profession.
Once she got into teaching public speaking, she remembered her conversation with her professor and wanted to reach out to her professor to thank him only to learn that he had passed away.
Some of the things she probably would have shared with him are some of the best things about teaching public speaking such as “seeing a student share their elevator pitch or their introduction” and their nervousness to speak only to see them at the end of the semester blossom. “They have built this level of confidence and you literally see their transformation. That is probably the best part about teaching public speaking,” said Risher.
Recently Professor Risher started her own podcast show “Good Mourning with Caffie” to help share with others about loss and self-care. She chose this name because she wanted her viewers to feel like friends and family. Delving into her thought process, she spoke about how although she has many titles (Dr., Reverend, and Professor) going with her name would be the best fit. That way she can sit down on her couch and talk to her audience about a deeply emotional subject.
She explained how she got started in bereavement and dealing with loss.
Professor Risher had been through a lot of grief in her life, having had lost loved ones of her own and being there for others when they lost someone, and saw the importance of how people go about dealing with it. She had seen her father lose loved ones, and her dear friend lose their daughter.
In helping her friend, Professor Risher searched for places that would help her friend navigate this tough time. Not only was it difficult to find such a place, being a part of the black community people are taught to deal with issues on their own or ignore them rather than seek help. Professor Risher felt a calling to start a conversation about the grieving process.
Her journey began with educating herself about the dying process, both for those actively dying and the loved ones they left behind. She became an End of Life Doula and grief specialist and received a certification in Thanatology from the Art of Dying Institute with the intention of equipping herself to deal with loss and grief. Professor Risher also did a 13-week clinical at Valley Hospital and stayed on to work in hospice there.
Once she recognized the need and obtained the knowledge, Professor Risher was looking for a way to reach the people that needed her most. She turned to social media to start building her own community. Even with her incredibly busy schedule, she had found a way through the help of a team to broadcast her important message. This included Facebook and Instagram posts that eventually led to the podcast.
Dealing with loss and comforting may not be easy for everyone. Professor Risher explained how she does not break down when dealing with people who have lost loved ones. “I had to share with some friends. Self-care is so important, I believe in self-care," she said. Later adding, “Going out with friends, going to comedy shows, and getting massages are things to help with self-care.”
To listen to Professor Risher’s show you can check it out on her Facebook page at “Good Mourning Ministry/Rev. Caffie J. Risher.