“I don’t know a soul,” said Julia Samuel. Standing in a room of about 25 people, she proceeded to name the only four she knew: Princess Beatrice of York, her publisher, her future son-in-law and her nephew, James Rothschild. And, of course, there was Susan Gutfreund, who was hosting a cocktail party in her honor.
Samuel had appeared on “Megyn Kelly Today” that morning to promote the American release of her book, “Grief Works: Stories of Life, Death and Surviving.” While on the show, she was also prompted about her connection to the British royal family. As it turns out, she was good friends with Princess Diana and is the godmother of Prince George.
A grief psychotherapist for 30 years, Samuel explained that she fell into her line of work naturally. “I was very influenced by my parents, who both had a lot of losses when they were young and never really grieved them,” she said. “That influenced me and once I started, it was like I’d found what I’d always wanted to do. It was like a coat that fit and I would have never expected that this would be my job.”
The book was inspired by interactions she had with her clients. “Death and grief are still very much taboo, and when I met clients who were grieving, they were so ignorant about what was normal and it made the whole grieving process worse because they felt that they were abnormal,” she shared. “In the end, I felt so annoyed by that that I wanted to write these stories, which are based on real clients I’ve worked with, so that there’s a greater understanding about grief.”
Held at Gutfreund’s opulent Upper East Side duplex, the cocktail gathering drew Jacqui Safra, Carlos Mota, Steven Manolis and Rushka Bergman. Gutfreund explained she and Samuel met through a mutual friend, and that she’s close with Samuel’s daughter, Emily, who was absent from the party because she was counseling troubled children at Yale University.
“I’m so impressed and in awe of what [Samuel] does,” shared Gutfreund, “To spend that kind of time between counseling families and then going to hospitals to teach doctors how to give bad news, that takes over your life. It’s not like making widgets or being in a bakery and walking out the door and the day’s over. These things haunt you. I used to raise a lot of money for teenage suicide and depression, so I so understood what that can be like.”
The small fete was a nice change for Gutfreund, who had hosted 90 people from the Budapest Festival Orchestra just days earlier. She also recently hosted a book party for Kirk Henckels’ “Life at the Top.”
“I believe in these things and they deserve being celebrated,” she said. “I was so pleased that people took the time out to come for this because after all, grief is not the happiest subject.”
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