“The only cure for grief is action.” – George Henry Lewes, philosopher
“… Josh was only in his early teens!”
Jerry was a tall, slight man about forty years of age. He cleared offices on a part time basis to supplement his disability pension. He was a long time, divorced father with two teenage sons. One son Josh, was deceased, and the other, Jack, who had sided with his mother during the marriage breakdown, didn’t speak to him.
Jerry told me he struggled with depression for years. When I asked him how his son had died, he said, “They are still not totally sure but think it was an aneurism…Josh was only in his early teens!”
I said, “Jerry you have certainly had some demanding events in your life. But you have obviously got through them…what brings you here today to see me?”
“Ken, I’m really not sure, but I have been really feeling down, since I heard my niece, Natasha, is pregnant and due to have her first baby…a son…next spring.”
He hesitated a bit and then continued. “I’m really pleased for her and her entire family. Like every family, they have had their own challenges but I wish them well with their new addition. I think it will give their family a whole new focus for the future. So, I’m really pleased for them but, at the same time, feeling very discouraged about it…even though, it really has nothing to do with me. I’m just one of the Natasha’s three uncles…so I am really confused about why it is bothering me so much!”
“…it was a nightmare for everyone, so many awkward moments…”
“Jerry, when Josh died did you work with a professional to resolve your grief at this sudden and dramatic loss?”
“My ex-wife, Chandra, was as devastated as I was. Given our strained relationship, and the boys being caught in the middle, it was a nightmare for everyone…so many awkward moments…so many things left unsaid…so many hurts. To answer your question, Ken…no…I never sought out any professional help when Josh died so suddenly!”
“My best guess then would be, he is in your thoughts daily as you carry around your confusion and grief of his passing…is that true, Jerry?”
“Yes…that is quite true, Ken!”
“Jerry, my second guess would be you don’t fully understand how love, or nature, works.”
“Love?…Nature? Ken, what have they got to do with me grieving Josh’s death?”
“Actually, quite a lot, Jerry! It also has a lot to do with you obtaining a measure of appreciation or happiness for your life today.” I added.
“That’s basically why I called you, Ken…so tell me more!”
“the only difference between people is the form of their transformation.”
“Jerry, you have been striving to understand, what many consider, life’s most important concepts: death, love and happiness. Let me, if I may, offer you some new ideas which may assist you to deal with your present situation.”
“Great!” he replied with a sudden enthusiasm.
“Let’s start with death. In nature, there is no actual death, but only transformation. Jerry, science tells us everything, including humans, are made of atoms of energy in either waves or particle form. And these waves and particles cannot be destroyed but only changed into one form or the other.
“I’m confused, would you give me an example?”
“Sure, for example, many couples transform their waves of affection for each other into particles like children for example. In the same way, if I wanted to try to destroy this wooden chair in which I’m sitting; I could chop it up into pieces with an ax but it would still be a smashed up chair. I could also burn it and transform it into some waves of heat and a pile of ashes. I could also burn the ashes again, and get more heat and less ashes…but I always end up with another form of energy in some combination of waves and particles. This is called the law of energy conservation…one of nature’s most fundamental laws. So when a person dies, they are transformed into another form. We know their body, the particles,are transformed through biological disintegration. But what about their waves of energy, where do they go? Do you understand so far, Jerry?”
“You saying a parent does not really die but rather is transformed through their children…is that the idea, Ken?”
“Yes, and it applies to everyone and every thing, the only difference between people is the form of their transformation. The easiest way to see it is to think of what you miss about someone who has passed. Jerry, would you be willing to use your memories of Josh to understand this idea?”
“I guess so.” he said with some hesitation.
“Grief and memory go together. After someone dies, that’s what you’re left with. And the memories are so slippery, yet so rich.” – Mike Mills, musician
“That’s easy…it was his loyalty to me.”
“Jerry, what do you most miss about Josh? What was it about your son that you still remember well, and miss regularly?” I asked.
“That’s easy…it was his loyalty to me. Even when his Mom and I split up, and he stayed with her, he still kept in close contact with me, even though his Mom and his brother disapproved. We would get together regularly, and I felt his devotion to me throughout his shortened life.” he said with a strong tone of melancholy in his voice.
“So, you have been missing his loyalty which suggests to me this is one of your highest values…would that be true, Jerry?”
“Well, when I stop and think about it…yes…it is true! I do place high value on loyalty…I am very loyal to my close friends; my employer, whom I was with for 25 years; my community, where I’ve lived for just as long; and…you know, even to Chandra and Jack, in my own way. I don’t harbour anger or resentment toward them for how they treat me. I know it takes two to tango, so I know we equally contributed to the break up of our marriage and family…I don’t blame her, and I never have!”
“Due to this law of energy conservation I mentioned earlier, this means that Josh’s loyalty to you changed form as soon as he passed. This means once he died, you started noticing other people’s loyalty to you which filled the gap left by Josh’s passing. Who are those people, Jerry?” I asked.
“So, there must have been other sources of loyalty which were present…”
Jerry hesitated for a few moments before he responded. Then, he said,
“I remember at Josh’s wake many people coming up to me to offer their condolences.”
His eyes watered as he continued, “But what sticks out to me even now, after all these years, was when my brother, Brian, who I hadn’t had much contact with for several years, appeared at my side and said, ‘Jerry, life is so short, I’m so sorry for what’s happened…!’ I was so taken with his loyalty after all the time we had been disconnected. And then, that same afternoon, an old friend from school days also showed up at the wake and talked about how we should get together.”
“Jerry, when you think about the loyalty of your brother and friend, it is enough in your mind to counterbalance the loss of Josh’s loyalty?”
Jerry thought for a moment, and then replied, “No, I don’t think so! I appreciated their loyalty and support but it didn’t equate with what I lost when Josh passed!”
“So, there must have been other sources of loyalty which were present which you were not noticing…look carefully again back to that day.”
Jerry kind of went inside himself for a few minutes, even closed his eyes at one point for a minute or so, then he looked up at me with tears streaming down his cheeks and said,
“Ken, as I watched Josh display loyalty to me over the years…when he died it helped me to be more loyal to myself…to honour myself…even if Chandra and Jack didn’t like me breaking up our family…even if they are still upset about it…I left because the marriage was not working, and was destructive for me…I had to move on, to survive. I think Josh had that figured out! So, when I lost Josh’s loyalty I mostly recovered it from myself by showing loyalty to me and my future. Does that make sense?”
“Grief, no matter where it comes from, can only be resolved by connecting to other people.”
– Thomas Horn, actor
“…it is like honouring Josh’s life and his memory, too!”
“Jerry, it makes perfect sense! It’s like the loss of Josh’s loyalty to you gave you the insight to uncover your own loyalty to yourself. And, I bet Josh would appreciate how his passing served you in such an important way.”
“Ken, Josh, always seemed to have a wisdom exceeding his age and I think you’re right, he would approve!”
“Jerry, can you see then that Josh’s loyalty to you, his love for you is evident everywhere around, as you live life today…it is just in a different form. One form is in connecting with your brother or your old friend. Another form is when you are loyal to your own values and dreams. And, as you have been moving forward in your life since his passing, and as you do so in the future, you will notice his love and loyalty manifested in many of the people and events in your life. ”
“So, Josh’s loyalty is all around me still, but in new forms…when I think about it that way…it’s like his spirit…his energy is still around me…I like that, Ken! When I notice these new forms of loyalty in my life, whether in myself or someone else…it is like honouring Josh’s life and his memory, too! Eh?”
“And, notice it also can help you understand and appreciate your niece’s new baby boy as well.” I added.
“Yes, Ken, I can see it now. Natasha’s pregnancy motivated me to resolve the confusion and grief I was carrying about Josh. And now, when I get to see her son, I will have a new appreciation for him and I can connect it to Josh and, I will be OK!”
“Jerry you have done well. You have made great inroads on the grief you have been carrying for Josh. If there are other behaviours or traits about him you still miss, I can help you find their new forms, as well. Do you want to do that?”
“Yes I do.There are two others which come to mind that I need to find their new forms, so I can honour Josh, and myself!”
“Great, let’s get to it right away, Jerry!”
And we did that! When Jerry was finished mourning the loss of his son, Josh, you could see the difference on his face. There was an energy and a revitalization in his demeanour.
“Happiness is beneficial for the body, but it is grief that develops the powers of the mind.”
– Marcel Proust, author
Until Next time…
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