Synchronicity is far more than a rock album. It is the term coined by Carl Jung, a Swiss psychotherapist, to describe the phenomenon in which events are connected in such a meaningful way that their occurrence seems to defy the calculations of probability.
Part of my new normal since my granddaughter was born still is that I no longer believe in coincidence. I do, however, fervently embrace the concept of synchronicity.
My earliest experience of synchronicity in this particular journey of bereavement, grief and transformation occurred while my daughter-in-law was in labor. It is only in retrospect that I am able to label it as an act of synchronicity.
When my youngest son and his wife were pregnant with their first child, they made it very clear that they did not want grandparents present during labor and delivery. They were going to call us when their baby was born, and we would then join them to greet and toast our newest family member.
Tim called me throughout the day to update me on Jenn’s labor progress. The hospital where I work is a few blocks from where they were delivering. When he called shortly before the end of my work day and told me she was 6 centimeters dilated, I knew that by the time I drove home, about thirty minutes south, he would be calling and I would have to turn around and drive back into the city, both trips made in rush hour traffic on the turnpike.
In a statement that is totally out of character for me, I told him I was going to come over and sit in the waiting room. His response was also uncharacteristic. He did not argue with me; he merely said “ok”.
My world came crashing down a few hours later when my son stood before me and told me he needed me upstairs, that Jenn had just delivered a baby girl who did not have a heartbeat. I was not supposed to be present for my grandchild’s birth, but I was certainly meant to be there.
So many acts of synchronicity have occurred as I’ve made my way along this path of love and grief. I connected with an online support community of grandparents. I was drawn to a grandmother whose grandson was born still the same day as Maddy.
As we began sharing, we found many other seeming coincidences. Not only were our grandchildren born still on the same day, same year, but when the time difference is taken into account, it was approximately the same time. My family uses the dragonfly as our symbol of Maddy, and her family uses butterflies. Dragonflies and butterflies are found in similar locations and frequently are spotted together.
It gave me a modicum of comfort to think that not only had I found a friend, but perhaps my granddaughter and her grandson are together in another dimension. I was actually able to meet in person with one of the grandmothers on my support forum. We picked a restaurant and shared a lunch full of tears, hugs and love. As we made our way out to the parking lot, we asked somebody to take a picture of us together. While we were posing for the picture, we noticed a shrub with a dragonfly hovering near one of the blossoms.
I have frequently seen dragonflies and dragonfly items while traveling. I was asked to speak at a conference for bereaved parents; as an organization, they use the butterfly as their symbol of deceased children. I did not expect to see any dragonflies, but the morning of the opening plenary, a woman sitting directly in my sight line was wearing a beautiful flowing blouse embroidered with them.
At a remote waterfall high in the Mayan mountains of Belize, a dragonfly entertained me for several moments. Most of my crying is done in the car; several times when I am feeling especially sad, a dragonfly has appeared in front of my windshield. A huge dragonfly actually put on an acrobatic performance outside my second floor inner city office window.
One of my strongest experiences occurred during a writing workshop at the 2006 MISS Foundation conference. The workshop facilitator was a woman I have become close to over e-mail. She introduced me to her mother, who has been a consistent source of support to me. The exercise was a free writing activity where we were instructed to write from the voice of our deceased child. Until that workshop, my writing had always been from me to my granddaughter, so I wasn’t sure how this would turn out.
I was amazed at what I wrote. I shared it with the group, crying softly as I read the final statement from Maddy. “Keep looking for the dragonflies, Grammy. I’ve sent some you haven’t found yet.” The facilitator whispered as she hugged me “They’re in my room.” She had painted a whimsical dragonfly on a glass, and her mother had made a set of note cards with gorgeous stamped dragonflies to be given to me.
If you open your consciousness to the possibility of synchronicity, you will discover it in your life. So many times things happen that we dismiss too quickly as coincidental. Part of my new normal is putting aside my skepticism and being open to these experiences. When you least expect it, when you are feeling alone and misunderstood, glance out the window and if you should happen to see a rainbow, a dragonfly or butterfly, a white feather, a pinwheel-any of the signs and symbols of our beloved children and grandchildren-smile and believe in synchronicity.
Nina Bennett 2011
Originally published in MISSing Angels, newsletter of the MISS Foundation, 2008