Shirley Brennan (1965-2021) Obituary
Julia McLeod, Lecturer in Counselling, Abertay University
On the day I learned about Shirley’s death I had just finished reading Mariana Lecky’s book What you can see from here in which a much-loved member of a small community unexpectedly dies and one of the characters describes his heart as ‘weighing as heavy as that as a blue whale’. I could not find a better way to describe the feelings of loss for such a lovely person. I also like to think that Shirley would have loved that book, which contained a little Buddhism, some therapy, creativity, and much love between the characters.
Shirley spent the years 2017-20 studying the MSc in Counselling at Abertay. She brought with her many wonderful things: her experience as a shiatsu practitioner, her talent as an artist, and her general warmth and wisdom. In the first couple of years staff enjoyed her curiosity, questioning, and her excitement at learning how she could combine these new therapeutic skills with her bodywork. I was fortunate to have been able to work closely with Shirley in a small group, and experience first-hand how in tune she was with the feelings and experiences of others. How she was always able to find the right thing to say.
In the third year of the course, she amazed me, and other members of the staff team, with her Pluralistic Therapy Cards; and her beautifully written, illustrated book about the pluralistic chicks that flew the nest (called A Pluralistic Tale and read by Shirley on YouTube). We all experienced Shirley as a kind-hearted, enthusiastic, playful, and generally wonderful student who completed the course with distinction. Shirley was a passionate advocate of pluralistic practice, who made many friends on the course and in the wider professional community.
My own life, and that of many other staff and students at Abertay, was touched and lit up by Shirley’s presence, her story, and her talent. We learned of her love for Alan, her boys Sam and Jack, and other members of her family. In this last year, we all enjoyed her accounts of adventures with Alan in her campervan along the forests and coast of Scotland.
We will miss her as our colleague and friend.