When Delphi Ellis was a child growing up in an average, industrial town in the UK, she had no idea that her home life was far from ordinary.
Her name comes from the famous Oracle from Ancient Greece who, once upon a time, would provide insight and inspiration to all those who visited. The black cat and statue of Aphrodite in her childhood home might have also been a clue that life behind closed doors was steeped in superstition, legend and ritual. Watching her Mum take part in a past life regression was a standard evening activity and being asked “What did you dream last night?” was regular breakfast conversation. But it was only when she went to school, she began to realize that life in her house was different to most other kids in the neighborhood.
Fast forward a couple of decades and Delphi began her helping career, qualifying as a counsellor and mainly supporting those bereaved by murder and suicide. “I didn’t design it this way” she says, “but as it turned out, without prompting, most people wanted to talk to me about the dreams they’d been having during such a difficult time in their life. We would explore them helpfully together, alongside discussions about what might help them get a better night’s sleep. Many people I saw were exhausted, not just physically but emotionally, from all they were going through.”
It was largely these discussions that started Delphi thinking about writing a book; that and several people telling her she should write one. She explains, “Whenever I gave a talk or did a workshop, someone would ask me afterwards if I had a book coming out. I had been trying to some extent to write it for years [the book took ten years or more to write] but I had got caught in the trap of thinking it needed to be “just right”, especially as there’s so much science around the topic of sleep. Then one day, I was volunteering with a women’s refuge, talking about what might help the guests sleep better as they tried to rebuild their lives. A woman told me “I wish I’d known this years ago. You need to write a book”. It was then I decided just to write like I talk. To take the jargon and ‘mystery’ out of the topic, and bust some myths along the way.”
That’s how Answers In The Dark: Grief, Sleep and How Dreams Can Help You Heal was born. The book aims to join the dots between sleep, dreams and our mental health, specifically how grief shows up, even if no one has died. Delphi speaks openly about her own experiences which prove she’s no stranger to grief. She explains in the book that her father died when she was young, and this had a profound impact on the trajectory of her life, alongside other losses she faced without anybody dying.
She continues, “I am convinced it was Dad dying that put me on the path I am now, but I’ve also learned that grief doesn’t just belong to death – we can experience it for anything that matters to us that’s no longer there. I don’t hide that I was subjected to domestic abuse – it’s not my shame to carry – and I lost so much not just practically, but of myself during that time. When I was able to leave that behind me, I remember someone asking me what my favorite music was and I didn’t know; I’d been told for so long what I could and couldn’t like. All of this can take us, as I call it, down the plughole and it’s dark down there. Knowing we can find our way back up and exploring helpful ways to do this is key.”
Answers In The Dark also challenges some of the “Big Myths” of sleep, and grief, and also elaborates on a number of what Delphi describes as “night-time phenomena” – things like hearing your name being called (when there’s no one obvious there) or experiences like Visitation Dreams. She also provides a Sleep Cycle Repair kit as well as offering tips on how to decode your own dreams. “One thing I make clear” Delphi explains, “is that Answers In The Dark is not a dream dictionary; I believe you as the dreamer are the best person to decide what your dreams mean so the book gives tips on what might help.”
The book went to #1 in Hot New Releases on publication day, #3 in the Best Seller List and is currently sitting in the Top 100 Most Wished For books in its category on Amazon. Ultimately though, Delphi says, Answers In the Dark is a book of hope. She says her aim really, in writing the book was to normalize much of what we go through when we’re trying to find our way through a difficult time, and to provide insights and inspiration, much like the ancient Oracle, to help you find your way.