The Upside of Sadness in Our Grief Journeys


Entitled No More

During the last few days of my existence, I have experienced more sadness than usual. Considering that I am a parent whose child died  over 11 years ago, I could justify my sadness as something that I was entitled to because of my daughter Jeannine’s death. However, entitlement hasn’t been a part of my vocabulary for a long time. I have learned to express gratitude for the blessings in my life, as opposed to regret over what I don’t have or what I feel that I am entitled to have. Plus I have found my peace with Jeannine’s death because of my willingness to embrace a new relationship with her and because of her ongoing presence in my life. Being at peace doesn’t mean that occasional sadness isn’t part of the deal; I have learned to honor my sadness as another opportunity for further learning and transformation. With that in mind, I want to share my thoughts and observations about my latest episode of sadness.

Last Day of Classes

For me, honoring my sadness means embracing it so that I can discover connections and/or teachings that can provide further clarity as I navigate my life path after the death of my daughter.

This past Wednesday (5/14/14) was the defining moment for my most recent episode of sadness.  On that day, another semester of college teaching at Utica College ended. I have always felt some sadness at the end of each of my semesters of teaching because of the joy I experience from working with the students and the joy I experience from connecting with the faculty of the psychology department. This past semester had a surreal quality to it however. One of our longtime faculty members and one of my first psychology professors, Thom Brown died in February. Thom first arrived at Utica College in 1975 when I was a student in the psychology department. I was among the first group of students that he ever taught. Following his death, I was asked to take over two of his classes for the rest of the semester. Thom was scheduled to retire after this semester; one of my students commented that I was present for both Thom’s first class and what would have been his last class. I think that the impact of my student’s insightful observation hit me like a runaway freight train after the final exam for Thom’s last class concluded.

Later that day, I took a walk around my neighborhood to clear my head a little and shortly thereafter, I found a single, very worn 1987 penny. My thoughts immediately gravitated to the year Jeannine was born, which was 1984. Jeannine would have been three years old in 1987. Jeannine died in the month of March or the third month of the year.  One of the tools that I have discovered that have enabled me to develop clarity in recent years has been the teachings in numerology. Ted Andrews, in his book Animal Speaks”, describes the positive qualities of the number three as: creativity, birth, and mystical (Andrews, P.52).

Combined Forces

Thom, Jeannine and the number 3 combined forces to help me discover new insights in the midst of sadness. There was a mystical symbolism inherent in the fact that I took over what would have been Thom’s final classes this semester, given the fact that I was one of his students during the beginning of his career at Utica College.  I am reminded now that it is a mysticism that should be recalled with awe and a sense of wonderment in the ways of the universe and not with sadness. Thom and Jeannine also reminded me that their death was a birth or rebirth into a new existence where they will continue to evolve and grow. And if we truly believe that life exists on other dimensions, and as long as we walk in awareness, our deceased loved ones will continue to influence our lives in ways that we could never have imagined.

“When you realize that other dimensions exist, you’ll never think of life, death, yourself or the universe in the same way again.”

The Afterlife of Billy Fingers- a true story by Annie Kagan


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( 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: is devoted to providing support and resources for individuals experiencing loss.


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  • Glenda says:

    Dave what a great reminder to us! There is that magical side to it all, if we are willing to see something from a different view. You are a blessing to all who know you. Thanks for sharing