“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.’ – C. S. Lewis, author
“She had a special fondness for deserts.”
Bristol was an experienced elementary school teacher with over 20 years in the trenches. Her partner, Brock, ran his own small IT company with ten employees. Bristol said they had no children because she had lots of them at work and Brock had a nephew and two nieces.
Bristol was a short, stout woman of forty five with dark hair and glasses. She projected a lot of energy and a quirky sense of humour. She said she loved her work but was always glad when Friday arrived. Bristol was a self described ‘foodie,’ her favourite hobby was cooking to which she devoted a lot of her free time and resources. She collected cookbooks, watched most of the cooking shows and took relish in trying new recipes of all kinds. She had a special fondness for European desserts.
Brock’s role was as the ‘royal taster.’ Bristol remarked sarcastically, her cooking hobby “made their marriage work.” It gave them something to do together. But, Brock had recently developed a heart condition. He experienced a heart attack five months earlier and had bypass surgery. Now, he was in ‘recovery mode,’ off work, taking his meds, eating his vegetables, having his naps and counting the days till he got back to his work and his life.
“… our mutual infatuation with food is killing us…slowly!”
When I asked her what brought her to my door, she replied,
“We’ve been attending a heart disease recovery program for the past six weeks. It is an eye opener for him but also for me.”
“In what way for you, Bristol?” I asked.
“I’ve been watching Brock live to eat, to actually eat his way to heart disease while ignoring his stress and his heath. And when he had his heart ‘incident,’…don’t you just love the jargon…I was not really surprised at all. Truth be told Ken, I’ve been expecting him to drop dead with a stroke or heart attack for some time.” she said, her fear and frustration surfacing suddenly on her face, like a shark’s dorsal fin among a group of swimmers.
“What has it meant for you to watch Brock live his life…in his own way?” I asked, wondering where she was going with this insight.
“Ken, I’ve realized three things. First, I can’t save him from himself. Second, our mutual infatuation with food is killing us…slowly! And, third, I need to take more conscious care of myself regardless of what Brock decides to do.” she responded.
“… I’m terrified Brock will die and leave me alone.”
“What does that translate into for you, Bristol?”
“I think it means I am on the same journey as him, but just in my own way. I need to look at how I deal with my own stress and my own well being because I’m no shining example of health either.”
“How have you been dealing with your own stress, Bristol?”
“Well, I realize now I’ve been avoiding…really running away from my stress instead of learning to manage it. I run to the kids at school, I run to cooking in the kitchen and I run to resorts in the sunny south periodically. That’s been it basically!”
“How would you describe your level of stress currently, Bristol?”
Her eyes flushed with unexpressed emotion as she said,
“Just look at me! I’m carrying too much weight for my small stature, I find myself out of breath climbing the six short stairs to my classroom, I exaggerate the importance of food and I’m terrified Brock will die and leave me alone. And, I’ve told no one..and, especially not him!”
“You sound terrified, Bristol!” I said, translating what I was witnessing.
“I am! And, I don’t know what to do about it!” she said, her eyes starting to glisten again in spite of her frustration.
“Grief can be the garden of compassion. If you keep your heart open through everything, your pain can become your greatest ally in your life’s search for love and wisdom.” – Rumi, poet
“… you are actually mourning Brock as if he had already passed.”
“It sounds like you are expecting him to just suddenly drop dead on you. Is that true?” I asked, wondering how much she was scaring herself with her catastrophic thinking.
“In a way, I guess it is! But, as I watch him go back to his old eating style and old thinking styles, it seems more likely every day. And, it just scares the bejesus out of me, Ken.” she said.
“Well, let’s set some priorities for our work, Bristol. I can help you with all the challenges you face. You’ve mentioned your own health, your own stress, Brock’s health, his stress and the possibility of him passing. What’s the most pressing part of your situation, the number one source of your stress, right now?”
She paused for a few seconds then said,
“I think it is the last one, him dying and leaving me alone and knowing I’m helpless to control it.” she said, her certainty clear.
“OK! That’s where we’ll begin! So, you have probably already guessed, you are actually mourning Brock as if he had already passed. And, that’s normal and natural. It is nature’s way of helping you be prepared for any future event by anticipating anything that could happen in your future. Does that make sense to you Bristol?”
“…I’m the transformed particles of energy waves (love) my parents shared?”
“You mean, I’m preparing mentally for something I don’t want to happen but could happen…then I’ll be better prepared…if it did happen, is that what you’re getting at?” she asked.
“Yes, that’s one of the values of the human imagination, it can anticipate anything and so, be more ready for it. But, it has another advantage too. It also drives us to understand nature’s laws which govern us.” I offered.
“What do you mean by nature’s laws, Ken?”
“Let me offer you an example as a way of explanation. Have you noticed since everything is made up of waves or particles of light, that means you are the particles of light transformed from the waves of light or love, your parents shared?”
She emitted a look of surprise as she said,
“Are you saying…this is the physics I studied at university isn’t it? Are you saying… I’m the transformed particles of energy waves (love) my parents shared?”
“Well, aren’t you? Aren’t you just an evolved form of love your parents shared in the past…just in a new form? Aren’t you just a tangible form of the intangible affection they had for each other…manifested today?” I asked her.
“Yeah…I guess so! But, what has that got to do with Brock dying and leaving me alone?”
“… everything is transformed into another form of energy.”
“Everything! Are your parents still alive and well today, Bristol?”
“My Mom is but my Dad was killed in an auto collision about ten years ago.” she replied.
“Let’s start with what we all know about death. For example, everyone gets a short ride in a long hearse, eventually. Also, research tells us many of the kids born today will live in excess of 150 years.” I said as an opener.
“Yes, I saw that in a magazine article just recently. It seems like everyone is talking about how long we live now.” she replied.
I continued, “And, death is a natural and normal cycle of all living things, including humans. But, since science tells us we are composed of waves and particles of light, we now know, we don’t actually die…we are really transformed into new kinds of light waves or energy if you prefer.”
“But, how do they know that?” she challenged.
“Einstein’s famous equation E = MC2 established everything is made up of atoms which are packets of light energy. And, science continues today to find this law demonstrated repeatedly throughout nature. Nothing is created or destroyed…but rather, everything is transformed into another form of energy.”
“Can you give me a simple, practical example of this, Ken?”
“Happiness is beneficial for the body, but it is grief that develops the powers of the mind.”
– Marcel Proust, author
“…uncover his new forms of energy since he passed.”
“Sure can! You watch the seasons change each year. You watch the leaves die and fall off the trees to the ground where they decompose and recycle their nutrients to replenish all the living things around, including that very tree they fell from.” I said.
“So, each tree has been, and is still being, nourished by every leaf that ever fell from that tree. Is that what you’re saying?” Bristol asked, getting the idea.
“Yep! So, the leaves didn’t really die, they transformed into nutrients for the next generation of living things. You and I are no different, we follow the same natural laws.”
“That would mean my Dad isn’t really gone, he was transformed in some way…is that the idea?”
“Exactly! Let’s find out if its true. What is the trait, behaviour, action, or even inaction, you most miss about your Dad since the moment you knew he had passed?” I asked her.
She paused briefly before saying,
“There are a bunch of things I miss about my Dad…like his devotion to me, his calm wisdom, his special presence…and our special times together, how he had my back and especially, his determination to deal with life in his own way.”
“Let’s take them one at a time and uncover his new forms of energy since he passed. Which one are you missing the most right now, Bristol?”
“As a parent, it’s my responsibility to equip my child to do this – 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, and we don’t know what happens after death.” – Sam Harris, author
“That’s exactly how Dad would have handled such a situation…”
She paused again, then said,
“What I miss the most is his determination to live his life in his own way. He had a lot of personal challenges in his life, both health wise and in his career. But, he rarely complained to others. He just dealt with them quietly, efficiently and effectively and moved on.”
“How about an example that comes to your mind?”
“I remember the time he was told by his doctor he needed to lose 30 pounds or risk diabetes. He just started getting up an hour earlier and walking the track, every day. He never told anyone except Mom who told me later when he had already been doing it for two months.”
“Bristol go to the moment when you realized your dad had passed. Who at that moment did you notice was displaying that same behaviour, but perhaps in a unique way? Look carefully, it will be there.” I said.
“Ken, I was at school when my Mom called me about the collision. I got called to the principal’s office to take the phone. When she told me Dad was gone, I kind of fell into the chair I was standing beside. My principal, Breanna, saw the look on my face through the open door to her office and came right over to me. I told her what had happened. She said, “Bristol, go home now! Take as much time as you need. I’ll go take over your class and we will backfill as we need to. Do you want someone to drive you home?”
Then she added, “That’s exactly how Dad would have handled such a situation…quiet, efficient and effective!”
“Now look across the time since your Dad’s death. Who else have you noticed, looking back now, has also been displaying this quiet, efficient and effective manner toward you?”
“I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge. …that laughter is the only cure for grief.
And I believe love is stronger than death.” – Robert Fulghum, author
“… perception of others as above, or below us, handicaps our perception of ourselves.”
Bristol started listing off stories of her Mom and other family members, friends like Bradley, colleagues like her principal, Breanna and ever herself, who also have displayed this quiet, efficient and effective way of behaving that was so like her Dad. She soon had identified seven other people whose behaviour had mirrored her Dad.
“So, Bristol can you see that quiet, efficient and effective manner you valued in your Dad, you now can see in yourself and others?”
“Yes, I can see it all around me…and in people I care about and who care about me.”
“Now, next we need to ensure you have respect for your Dad as a person and avoid infatuating or resenting him, as an angel or devil. To do this, you need to uncover the other side, the down side, to his quiet, efficient and effective way.”
“Do you mean there are bad sides to these behaviours I have been missing in my Dad? And, I’m supposed to not see him as an angel…rather just as a man?”
“Bristol, perception of others as above, or below us, handicaps our perception of ourselves. This creates illusions of superiority or inferiority, which slows our own learning and evolution. This is especially true of family members.”
“…he seemed too independent and even distant at times.”
“Are you saying infatuations or resentments of our deceased loved ones slows down our grieving, Ken?”
“Exactly, because it fosters one sided perceptions of others as heroes or villains, when we are all just people with unique values living the only way we know how.”
“When I look at it that way…then I have to say my Dad was kind of a loner because he didn’t ask for other people’s help, not even me. So, I felt unneeded at times. And, he seemed too independent and even distant at times.” she said.
“How did that impact you back then?”
“I felt in the dark. I had to get the information second handed from Mom and others. So, there really was a down side to his quiet, efficient and effective way of living.”
“OK. To balance your thinking about this trait of your Dad, what are the best aspects of the new forms of this trait you now see in your Mom, Bradley, Breanna and the others you mentioned?” I asked her.
“Now, I realize I can see it more often and in more varied forms than before. Also, I learn more from these new forms and get to play a role more often in their lives which helps me feel more connected than before.” she replied.
“So what is the benefit of having this kind of awareness of how death happens to us, Bristol?”
She paused for the briefest moment, then said,
“That’s a great question. I think it enables me to honour my Dad, love him as the person he was and continue to see him in other people who are around me right now.
“It is quite remarkable how I have changed my perception of his passing so quickly just by applying nature’s law of light and energy.” she said thoughtfully as her eyes watered briefly.
“Bristol, I think it will be even more obvious when you have done the same thing to the other traits of your dad you’ve been missing. Are you ready to do that?”
“I sure am!” she said emphatically.
When this grief work was completed, Bristol realized she was fearful of losing Brock because she still had not grieved her Dad’s passing. With this insight she was able to also grieve the possible loss of Brock, even though it hadn’t happened. This freed her from her fear of losing him and enabled her to have a healthier relationship. She soon realized that she didn’t need to change Brock, he had to live his life within his own values.
And she had to do the same thing…live inside her values. One of her highest values was her health. So, she began to create a healthier lifestyle for herself by focusing on not just food, but healthier food. She started collecting and cooking nutritious meals and eating them with, or sometimes without, Brock. She began to feel better, have more energy and have more enthusiasm for her life. And Brock was soon attracted to her new health focus.
She summed up her evolution one day when she said to me,
“I think my Dad would be pleased how I have quietly created a more effective and efficient lifestyle for myself! I’m truly my father’s daughter, eh?”
“Death has its revelations: the great sorrows which open the heart open the mind as well;
light comes to us with our grief.” – Victor Hugo, author
Until Next time…
Now you know, how long you grieve will depend on your level of awareness of the laws of nature which run your life. Owning and respecting these laws will enable you to move forward through your grief to love and honour the deceased in a effective and efficient manner. This frees you for your future.
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Namaste, (I salute the grandly organized design of the universe, manifested in you!
Be well…balanced! Ken