Hope and Clarity in the Middle of Nowhere

©Dave Roberts 2015

©Dave Roberts 2015

Lately, I have begun to revisit previous articles and blogs that I have authored. Perhaps as I grow older, I value nostalgia more, or perhaps it is the value I place on the past as a teacher. Regardless, I always discover new insights when I revisit previous writings.

The  majority of the content of the article that follows was originally published by Hello Grief in November of 2013. I have eliminated or changed some words here because the terminology I used then to describe my path doesn’t apply to me in this moment. I believe that as we evolve after loss, how we conceptualize our experience evolves as well. 

This piece alludes to my belief that we must dance with the darkness of our grief to discover the light that is a prelude to hope and transformation from loss. I also discussed  the role that nature can play in facilitating this process.. When I revisited this piece again, I was struck by the role that alchemy played and has continued to play in helping me  learn to live again in its aftermath of catastrophic loss.

A google search revealed this definition of alchemy: a power or process that changes or transforms something in a mysterious or impressive way. 

For me, darkness and light, two polar opposite phenomena or, the yin and the yang worked together to help me create a new reality without the physical presence of my daughter , allowed me to embrace a peaceful perspective, and find meaning again.  

 

“Sometimes you find yourself in the middle of nowhere, and sometimes in the middle of nowhere,
you find yourself.” – Author Unknown

As a parent who has experienced the death of a child, there were many days that I found myself in the middle of nowhere. I didn’t need to leave my house to find the middle of nowhere.

My life was characterized by profound darkness  in the early phase of my grief, following my 18-year-old daughter Jeannine’s death in March of 2003.   I  eventually discovered  that if you sit with darkness long enough,  some light emerges amidst that darkness. Once we begin to see light, hope for a present and future without the physical presence of our children begins to take shape.

Stittville Travels and Lessons Learned
 

There are still days when darkness seems to find me. I have accepted these intermittent returns to the land of nowhere as an inevitable part of our transformative paths following the death of our children. I have also given thanks to the teachings darkness has revealed to me.

Recently, I went to church services at The Stittville United Methodist Church. Stittville is a little hamlet in Upstate New York located about eight miles from my home. Our Compassionate Friends chapter meets monthly at the church .

Many people in our area believe that Stittville is located in the middle of nowhere, because it is such a small , rural town.  However, I would like to think that many of our families are beginning to find themselves … in the middle of nowhere.

After church services I drove home and  because of the little traffic that I encountered, I began to survey the scenery. Here is what I discovered:

  • Though it was a dark, overcast day, there were definite discernible, brilliant patches of brightness. In early grief, it is a challenge to see any ray of hope amidst the profound sadness and pain that we experience. For me, it was my ability to see the light in darkness that helped me begin the process of redefining myself.
  • Fall in Upstate New York, means that leaves on the trees change colors. There was a colorful array of red, orange and golden brown leaves that caught my eye. Ted Andrews, a brilliant Native American Teacher, alludes to the positive qualities of colors in his book, Animal Speaks. Here is what I discovered:

The color brown’s qualities are grounded and new growth. Orange is indicative of warmth, joy and creativity. Red signifies passion and strength. 

 

Certainly as a result of the challenges presented by Jeannine’s death, I developed and nurtured many of these qualities during my journey. The messages I received from nature that day seemed to validate the path that I have chosen to take. How we interpret what we see in nature is always a product of our unique experiences and to what is transpiring with us in the present.

In the quiet of nowhere, we learn to trust our intuition and inner voice. In the middle of nowhere, the process of transformation begins. The process of transformation is unique to the individual. I have discovered invaluable teachings by witnessing without judgment, the transformative journeys of others affected by loss.

Dealing With Darkness
 

In the 11th year of my journey as a parent who has experienced the death of a child, I still experience dark moments and days, but I have no desire to let darkness consume me like it did in early grief. I strive to discover meaning in darkness; teachings that can enrich my journey.

I also believe that I have developed more spiritual awareness in the last few years of my journey. I have felt empowered by my willingness to look for and embrace the connectivity and synchronicities in my life. I have also come to understand that there is reasons beyond the obvious that contribute to the paths our journeys take.

Acknowledging My Humanness


Spiritual awareness hasn’t made me less immune to the challenges presented by Jeannine’s death. Embracing awareness has allowed me to learn from my humanness. Acknowledging our limitations without judgment and stating our intent to address or manage them over time is a sign of spiritual growth. The absence of self-judgment translates to the presence of self-love and the hope that in the middle of nowhere, we can find ourselves.

 

 

 

David Roberts

More Articles Written by David

David J. Roberts, LMSW ,became a parent who experienced the death of a child, after his daughter Jeannine died of cancer on 3/1/03 at the age of 18. He is a retired addiction professional and is also an adjunct professor in the psychology department at Utica College, Utica, New York. Dave has presented workshops at national conferences of The Compassionate Friends and Bereaved Parents ,as well as local and regional venues. Dave was also the keynote speaker at both the 2011 and 2015 national gatherings of the Bereaved Parents of the USA. He is also a featured speaker,workshop presenter and coach for Aspire Place(www.aspireplace.com) Dave is a HuffPost contributor and has also written articles for several other grief and self-improvement publications. He has co-authored two books with Linda Findlay of Mourning Discoveries. One is on navigating grief during the holidays and the other is on pet loss. One of Dave's articles” My Daughter is Never Far Away" can also be found in Open to Hope: Inspirational Stories of Healing and Loss. Excerpts from Dave's article for The Open to Hope Foundation, called The Broken Places, were featured in the 2012 Paraclete Press DVD video, Grieving the Sudden Death of a Loved One. Dave has also appeared on Healing the Grieving Heart and the Advocacy Heals U radio shows , and the Open to Hope television show . Dave’s website: www.bootsyandangel.com is devoted to providing support and resources for individuals experiencing loss.

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  • Julie Hemenway says:

    It has brought me comfort to hear that other parents relate to my experience. When My son Matthew died 9/23/2008, I felt people would look do on me and my son. To tell people he died of an overdose. For fear they would judge me as a bad parent. I loved my boy so much. he was 19 one month from his 20th birthday.

    • Hi Julie. Please accept my condolences for the death of your son . It has also been my experience that support from other parents who have experienced the death of a child is comforting and validating. Regardless of how our children died, they are all beautiful souls and it is that we should always honor. I wish you peace as you continue to navigate grief following the death of your son Matthew.