March 1,2013 will mark the 10th angelversary of my 18-year-old daughter Jeannine’s death. At times, I wonder how I made it ten minutes, much less ten years. During my early grief, I never thought I would experience joy again, nor did I ever believe that my life would have meaning again, without my daughter’s physical presence. However, my perspective on Jeannine’s death has changed because I made a conscious effort to do so and because of the support and spiritual guidance that I have received along the way. It has been an empowering feeling to be able to address the challenges presented by Jeannine’s death. In some strange way, pain has become a friend and an ally that continues to teach me and inspire me to find ways to transcend it. One thing that my pain has taught me is that I can live with my limitations. The other day, I was looking through some of Jeannine’s clothes and Tigger mementos and experienced a rush of sadness. I let it engulf me for a brief period and then I detached myself from the emotion. I guess another lesson that I learned is that I do not have to be disempowered by emotional pain; I can empower myself to deal with it differently.
Year 10: Some Additional Reflections About The Journey
On 6/28/10, I wrote an article for Open to Hope called Five Years After Child Loss: The Evolution of Grief (http://www.opentohope.com/five-years-after-child-loss-evolution-of-grief/). I listed the truths or lessons that I discovered five years after Jeannine’s death; they still apply today. I would like to share some additional truths that I have discovered as I approach my daughter’s ten year angelversary.
- I don’t believe that we get better over time as a result of the death of our children but we do become redefined… in time. The futility of using the word better to describe progress made during our journeys became evident to me approximately three years ago, during a workshop that I presented at a national Compassionate Friends conference. One parent very eloquently stated: “Why did my child have to die for me to become a better person?” That one question motivated me to remove the word “better” from my new world grief vocabulary.
- In this incarnation of myself, I believe that my “soul family” has been a key part of helping me find meaning again. I have been blessed with many wonderful spiritual teachers who have helped me look beyond the death of Jeannine by helping me embrace synchronicity and intuition to help me develop greater clarity. They have also taught me that though the physical body is gone, the spiritual relationship endures.
- We do survive death and continue to evolve and even reincarnate if we choose to after death. This is another truth discovered while working with my spiritual teachers. Additionally, reading Sylvia Browne’s book, Life on the Other Side, recently reinforced this for me as well.
- My two sons (and Jeannine’s brothers) are an inspiration to me. Dan and Matt had their own unique set of challenges to deal with after their sister Jeannine died. They addressed those challenges with honor and integrity and in the process taught me more lessons about the meaning of honor and integrity. As I was proud that Jeannine chose me to be her father in this lifetime, I am equally proud that Dan and Matt chose me to be their father in this lifetime too.
- Ernest Hemingway was not only one of the most brilliant authors of our time but one of the most brilliant philosophers of our time. One of his quotes that has resonated with me in this moment is as follows:
“There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.”
I am not the man that I once was since Jeannine’s death. I would only want to revisit who I was before Jeannine’s death only by choice and only as a reminder of where I wouldn’t want to be today. My mother was a truly giving; compassionate and wonderfully intuitive person whose sole concern was helping others. She was a truly beautiful soul. I was telling my wife Cheri, that in the second half of my life, I feel that I am getting closer to truly becoming my mother’s son. The qualities that my mother embraced and that have become a part of who I am, are, without question superior to my former self.
Today I am content and for the most part at peace. Please understand, that I will always be affected by Jeannine’s death. My world is different now and will be until I die. But the struggle with her death has helped me realize that I have a lot to live for and has taught me many spiritual lessons. There will always be a degree of sadness due to Jeannine’s physical absence and I have learned to accept that as an ongoing part of my grief evolution.
I have also surrendered to the need to know the answers to questions about why Jeannine died. This has given me the freedom to focus on the moment and in the process discover the insights and tools that I have needed to restructure my world, post- Jeannine.
Sometimes surrender means giving up trying to understand and becoming comfortable with not knowing. -Eckhart Tolle