“As a parent, it’s my responsibility to equip my child to …grieve when grief is necessary and to realize that life is still profoundly beautiful and worth living despite the fact that we inevitably lose one another and that life ends…”– Sam Harris, author
“Alice was a slight, pretty, young woman with pale, blond hair…!”
When she arrived at my office, trailing her Dad, Alice was just 18 years old, had a sordid history of drug use, and was in danger of not completing her last year of high school. Her father, Johnny, was a lonely man, living on his own, since he and Alice’s mother, had divorced ten years earlier.
Alice was cautious and skeptical, like a cat with a stranger in the their house. Johnny sat in on the first part of the session, explaining how he didn’t know how to help Alice. By way of an explanation of their situation, he said he had three daughters, but had lost one, Belinda, three years earlier, in an auto collision. He said Alice was his youngest, and he was determined not to lose any more of his children…and, so he had called me.
Alice was a slight, pretty, young woman with pale, blond hair and clear blue eyes. She was cordial, but seemed somewhat reluctant to talk with her father present. I asked her father to check out the new, Scientific American magazine in my waiting room, while I had a chat with Alice, to determine how I could assist her. He readily agreed, with that look of reluctant relief, parent’s display to health professionals when leaving their loved one in their care.
“Suppressed grief suffocates, it rages within the breast, and is forced to multiply its strength.” – Ovid, poet
“…but my sister’s death seems to hang over me like a cloud…”
When I asked Alice why she had agreed to come to my office, she said, “ I know I need to get my act together…I know I want to finish my school year, and get on with my life…but my sister’s death seems to hang over me like a cloud…and not just me,…my whole family, as well!”
“For now, let’s focus on you. It sounds like you are still actively grieving Belinda’s passing, is that true, Alice?”
“I guess so…I only know I miss her a lot, and with Carol, my oldest sister, working now in Toronto, and my Mom and Dad divorced…it seems like I’m missing my whole family.” she said, her eyes filling up.
“Alice, what is your priority for today, we can start working on, immediately?” I asked.
Alice thought for a moment and then replied, “I think I need to get past my grief, I need to get on with my life…it’s been over three years since Belinda died. And, she would be so angry, if she knew, I was not moving forward…she was such an inspiration for me…that’s the part I miss the most about her…!”
“…you see them as a human being, not as an angel or devil…”
“I can show you how to move on, Alice. It requires one thing from you…a willingness to learn. Are you ready for that kind of challenge?”
“Yes, I am!” she said with certainty.
“There are three things which moves us through grieving. Grieving, in fact, is part of everyone’s life…loss is part of our past, present and future. Successful grieving is learning to honour the person and honour ourself.”
“What do you mean by honouring Belinda and myself?”
“When you honour someone, you see them as a human being, not as an angel or devil…but rather as a person you had the privilege to spend time with, and who served you in your life by being a real, genuine, human being.”
“Ken, that’s just how I want to be able to see Belinda!” she said, emphatically.
“Alice, what are the five things you miss most about Belinda…the five traits or behaviours which made her so special to you?”
Alice smiled and said, “ That easy…I miss her sense of humour; I miss her smarts…she was really intelligent; I miss her just listening to me, when I was struggling; I miss her companionship…she would hang out with me; and I miss her adventurousness…she loved to see, and do, new things.”
“Some pain is simply the normal grief of human existence. That is pain that I try to make room for. I honour my grief.” – Marianne Williamson, author
“When you notice the new forms of her love in others, you honour her…”
“Alice, the first thing to know about grieving is it is linked to not understanding physics. Grieving is not realizing, due to the law of energy conservation, there is no death but rather a transformation of energy. In other words, people aren’t destroyed by death, their energy, or their love, (all we really are is particles and waves of energy) is transformed into new forms.”
“Please, run that by me again, Ken!”
“You are a transformation of your parents’ love for each other into a new form…they co-created you…they transformed their love for each other into you and your sisters. So also, the love you received from Belinda, is also still around you, but in different forms, in different people. You have not been noticing because you didn’t know this law of physics. For example, whose sense of humour have you been noticing, and appreciating more, since Belinda passed?” I asked.
Alice looked at me like I had three heads…paused and then said, “Well…I have thought, at times, of how my oldest sister, Carol, has a similar one! And, my closest friend, Amanda, also reminds me of Belinda in that way. And, even Dad does too, at times.”
“That’s what I’m talking about Alice. Belinda’s love for you, as displayed in her sense of humour, is still around you, but in different forms. When you notice the new forms of her love in others, you honour her, her time with you, and her love for you. This keeps her love close and enables you to appreciate her and move on with your own life. And I bet she would want you to do that…wouldn’t she, Alice?”
She looked at me with a serene sense of awareness and replied, “Yes…yes she would!”
“The only cure for grief is action.” – George Henry Lewes, philosopher
“…grieving is really a one sided perception of the deceased person…an infatuation!”
“We need to find the other forms of her special love for you, and when you find them, you will realize she is not gone but all around you in your family, friends, colleagues…even yourself. We will do that! Now, the second thing you need to understand is grieving is really a one sided perception of the deceased person…an infatuation of them!”
“I’m infatuating Belinda…I don’t get it!”
“I bet you have only been remembering the good times with Belinda, and ignoring the times when you two were in conflict, or when she was not there for you the way you wanted. Is that also true, Alice?”
She looked down, thinking for a moment, and then looked and replied, “How did you know that, Ken? That is so true! We had some terrible fights that lasted for days and days. But, I have tried to ignore those memories, you know how they say you shouldn’t speak ill of the dead?”
“Remember, I suggested to honour a person is to see them as real, as a genuine human being. Belinda, like you, me and everyone else, had every trait…both the good ones, and the bad ones. To honour her is to acknowledge her genuineness. Do you see what I mean?”
“Yes, I’m starting to get this, Ken.”
“Grief starts to become indulgent, and it doesn’t serve anyone, and it’s painful. But if you transform it into remembrance, then you’re magnifying the person you lost and also giving something of that person to other people, so they can experience something of that person.” – Patti Smith, musician
“…it’s like my heart is helping my head catch up to how nature works…”
The third thing to get through your grief is you will need is to find the benefits of the new forms of Belinda’s traits and the costs of the old forms of Belinda’s traits. This enables you to see and understand how the transformation occurs. This frees you to get on with your life.”
“How do I do that, Ken?” she asked.
“I will show you how to do it right now. Are you ready to start?”
“I sure am!” she replied with a soft smile which lit up her youthful face.
So, Alice, in the next hour, worked her way through her grief of Belinda’s death. She uncovered all the new forms of Belinda’s traits and behaviours she had been missing in her family, friends and herself. Then, she discovered the downsides to these same traits, she had seen in Belinda. Next, she started identifying the upsides, to the new forms of these traits, in the other people. As she made her way through this focused learning process, you could see her old grief transform into an appreciation for herself, her family, her friends, and also, her deceased sister, Belinda.
As we finished up, I asked her how she perceived Belinda’s passing now, having completed this focussed accelerated learning process.
She thought for a moment and replied, “You know, Ken, I wouldn’t have believed I could have moved this far in my thinking in such a short time…but there is a part of me that knows there is truth in this…it’s like my heart is helping my head catch up to how nature works…and, I think Belinda would approve what I have done today…I think she would have wanted me to move on with my life!”
“I think you’re right, Alice!”
“Excess of grief for the dead is madness; for it is an injury to the living, and the dead know it not.” – Xenophon, soldier
Until Next time…
Here’s your chance to move through your grief and move on with your life. Whatever you think you have lost in the past, is still present in your life, in a new form. Go find the new form, and start appreciating your life, as it is. It will energize and inspire you toward your future.
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Namaste, (I salute the grandly organized design of the universe, manifested in you!)
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