I received this heartbreaking email from a friend and wanted to share my response in the hope that it might help you, or someone you know, experiencing a difficult loss.
“Good afternoon Michael, Im not sure if you were aware but my oldest son entered into eternity a little over 3 weeks ago, very unexpectedly…so, I’m in that stage of a shattered being right now…the days seem long and sometimes I don’t see a whole lot of what this so called life is really all about. But that will pass soon, I hope. As you probably do know, i respect your opinion so much, and I feel a little apprehensive in asking but I’ll do it anyway… Do you have any past wingman videos on death and dying, especially child related., as a child’s death is just not natural. If you do not, could you enlighten us with your thoughts on this? It would be most appreciated if you could and if you’re not able to I would totally understand. Thanks in advance, either way”.
I am so sorry for your loss. You honor me by asking if I have any videos, or thoughts and practices at this most challenging time.
As if there might actually be a practice that could dissolve your pain…
I’ve been struggling with what to write to you and I decided it might be best to do a FB live video for you, without using your name of course.
So that’s what I did and it is included below.
As for my thoughts, they’re simple. I believe we are all eternal beings and you will be with your son once again. I don’t know when, or how, or even what the configuration might be, but I feel certain we all meet up with our loved ones over and over as we travel through eternity.
As John Lennon said, “”I’m not afraid of death because I don’t believe in it. It’s just getting out of one car, and into another.”
As for any practices, or things you can do to help you through your pain. I am not a grief counselor, nor have I experienced your specific pain, but I have experienced pain and when I do, I do many different practices to help relieve it. I’ve listed some here. Hopefully they will help. Some are from the experts, along with one from me, one from a good friend nine months into a similar experience, and one from my wife, Jan.
- My first thought comes from my Wingdog, Monte. He taught me that when you’re hurt and in pain it’s ok to go off by yourself and lick your wounds. There is no time-table. Allow yourself as much time as is necessary, or as you want, to get stronger before getting back to “normal”.
2. Speaking of normal, there is no “normal”. There is only a new normal. With that in mind, I do have a practice I call “3Rs. Recognize. Regroup. Reassess.
Recognize: You don’t need me to tell you everything has changed. But sometimes when we’ve had a bad loss, we seem to want to return to normal. Recognize that your life has changed, or as my big-time doctor brother-in-law said to me as Janet lay in a hospital bed 15 years ago, having surgery to remove a lobe of her lung and the cancer within, “you want to try and get back to normal, well… as normal as you can after being hit by a bus”. Recognize that your old normal is no more.
Regroup: Take as much time as you need or want. Take care of yourself. Heal yourself. And take as much time as you desire. Have I mentioned that?
- From my friend and mentor, Dr. Bernie Siegel,who told me, “When you’re going through hell ask yourself, what am I to learn from this”?
I’ve done this so often in my life and it usually helps me to stop beating myself up and gets my mind moving in a positive direction.
- From Rumi, a 13th-century Persian poet, theologian, and Sufi mystic.
Rumi wrote “The Guest House”, where he talks about our physical bodies being a guest house where all emotions visit, and states we should invite them all in, even the painful ones, especially the painful ones. I can tell you I’ve done this practice by inviting my pain in for a cup of tea, and spoken with it.
Here is the poem…
5. From the Buddha. The story of Kisa Gautami. Kisa Gautami was a woman from a wealthy family whose only son died at the age of one. In her grief, weeping and crying, she went from house to house carrying him in her arms, begging anyone and everyone for a way to bring him back to life. Of course, nobody could help her but she would not give up.
Finally someone advised her to go see the Buddha. When she carried her dead child to the Buddha and told him her story he listened with patience and compassion, and then told her there was one way to solve her problem.
But to do so he would need 4 or 5 mustard seeds, but they must be from a family that had not experienced death. Kisa was excited and filled with hope, and immediately went to find such a household. As she went from house to house, and village to village, everyone wanted to help her and offered her mustard seeds. Unfortunately every household she visited had experienced the death of a loved one. It was then she learned what the Buddha wanted her to find out for herself, that suffering is a part of life and death comes to us all. It is said that once she came to terms with death being inevitable, she was able to stop her grieving.
6. From a good friend who is nine months into to the same, unfortunate journey and wanted to share some of what he has learned.
1. Take your time.
2. Drugs are most definitely ok.
3. It’s ok to laugh. It’s ok to set down the pain and laugh.
4. Don’t worry about being judged by others. There is no right or wrong.
- From my wife, Janet, who is a grief counselor and LCSW.
To allay the feeling of grief, and in honor of him, consider doing one small thing each week. Donate some clothes to a Veteran’s charity or domestic violence shelter, or maybe just a homeless guy on the street. Collect some old books from around your house for a literacy program or a poor/defunded library. Anything you come up with which may honor your son’s memory and for a few moments transmute the pain.
My thoughts, prayers, wishes and love are with you as you experience this terrible pain. Please make certain to be kind to, and take care of, yourself.
Here is the video…