Mar 26, 2021

Death Didn’t Become Her: How Joyce Mikal-Flynn Fights for the Living

The author’s new book, due out April 27, continues her thoughts on Metahabilitation

By Ed Goldman

In all likelihood, Professor Joyce Mikal-Flynn has been dead more times than you have.

Mikal-Flynn, 66, who died a little more than 30 years ago, has a new book in hard copy, e-book and audio formats due out April 27, “Anatomy of a Survivor: Building Resilience, Grit & Growth After Trauma.” It’s being published by Post Hill Press and distributed by Simon & Schuster corporation. (You can pre-order the book from Amazon or via her distributor.)

Edgy Cartoon

Dr. Joyce Mikal-Flynn photo by Rudy Meyers Photography

It was while swimming in 1990 that Mikal-Flynn’s anatomical electrical system mysteriously shut off, sending her lifelessly to the bottom of a pool. She was pulled out by her husband, Terry Flynn, and saved by the ministrations of other pool-goers—who happened to include physician friends, and who brought her back after an anxious 20-minute effort.

Since that life-after-death experience, Mikal-Flynn—a licensed nurse practitioner who holds a doctorate of education and teaches full-time in the Department of Nursing at Sacramento State University—wrote articles and books, became an in-demand counselor and motivational speaker. After all, who’s a better life coach than someone who can speak, with authority, not theory, about reincarnation? 

In 2013, I wrote about another of her books, “Turning Tragedy into Triumph,” in which she featured interviews with people who’d experienced similar premature deaths and lived to tell their tales.

In Mikal-Fynn’s new book, which I’ve read in pre-publication galley form, she resuscitates her raison d’etre. As she writes:

“I have dedicated over two decades of my life to the study of trauma, focusing on what brings forth a productive recovery. It is personal. I understand it, seeing firsthand how my trauma affected me and my family physically, socially, cognitively, and spiritually. I know the despair and depression that comes with life-altering events. I lived it. I get it. I appreciate the fear of having little to no control of one’s life and feeling completely frustrated by a lack of awareness and guidance toward a potentially positive outcome.”

She coined a term for her self-help system: Metahabilitation. It’s designed, she writes, “to be simple, useful and insightful, helping to navigate your survival journey productively. Relying on self-reflection to determine where you are, identifying positive characteristics and personal strengths, strategizing plans for transition to the next stage… . I suggest you use the process frequently as you work through more minor, less toxic struggles and troubles, training for more substantial challenges.”

In other words, the author thinks it’s useful to have a survival plan before you’re faced with a situation requiring you to do something to actually, you know, survive. “I wanted the book to appeal to the science part of me but also have it be useful for a more generalized public.” That would translate to people like you and me, though I’m probably more generalized than you. (I’ve long suspected I don’t even have fingerprints, which is why you don’t want me serving as a notary witness.)

Mikal-Flynn and her husband Terry, who’s executive vice president for commercial real estate at Exchange Bank, based in Santa Rosa, have three grown children and six grandkids. They have a second home in Sonoma, which has proved convenient for Terry and strategic for Joyce:  Before the world shut down a year ago this month, Mikal-Flynn took Metahabilitation on the road, more or less for out-of-town tryouts. The reviews were solid, enabling her to give likewise enabling presentations to, among others, the SWAT team of the Sonoma County Sheriff’s and Police Department, and to speak at a day-long conference in Sonoma called “Women’s Wellness and Resilience Day.”

She says she’s looking forward to taking a spring 2022 sabbatical from Sac State, during which she hopes to tour and tout her newest book more extensively. “I have so many people I want to reach and want to teach,” she says. 

Let’s hope people are eager to learn her techniques—but not dying to.

Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).