Many are mourning the death of Elizabeth Edwards.  I would like to share some thoughts of my own about why we are gripped by her life’s story.

I believe Elizabeth Edwards embodies two archetypes: the mother and the hero. I will focus on the hero archetype believing it is the more prominent.  Just as Odysseus was asked to leave his routine life because something serious occurred, we also may be called to do something heroic.

We might be called to save our king, our country, our friend, or ourselves.  And because the task is arduous, we may not want to accept it. Medieval stories refer to this calling or journey as a quest because the hero faces not only a serious challenge but oftentimes a life or death circumstance.

An example of a modern day hero’s journey is leaving for war.  We can add Elizabeth Edward’s monumental afflictions of burying a beloved child, battling cancer, then the discovery of her husband’s unspeakable betrayal. Then, and if the potential hero fully embraces the seriousness of the challenge, he or she realizes that nothing again will ever be the same. The aloneness is overwhelming.

But the hero is never really alone on the journey.  Why? Because a spiritual guide always emerges with the sole purpose of reminding us of our strengths. In Elizabeth’s case, I believe the guide came from within.  Maybe the Holy Spirit, maybe the Buddha, maybe a deeply felt sense of purpose or faith that only she could speak of.

Then, just when her life became a bit quieter, additional problems emerged in the form of an innocent child from her husband’s infidelity. It would be difficult enough in private circumstances but this was media fodder.

Now, even while feeling battle weary, the hero takes another breath and not only stays riveted on the original goal, she manages additional strength and confronts all fears.  Nothing stops the hero. Nothing stopped Elizabeth.

Elizabeth Edwards has died.  Many parts of her life seemed extraordinarily painful.  Compassionate people everywhere identified with her in places of betrayal, loss, loneliness, fear, and sadness. We felt empathy for her.

She carried the archetype of indomitable hero and she pushed through to complete her mission.  She was victorious in the end because her courage fortified her natural beauty, dignity and grace.

This is biblical, archetypal and transcendent. And because we have projected this archetype of hero onto Elizabeth Edwards, it is only right that we now gather together as a community and a family to acknowledge the sorrow we felt for Elizabeth, her beloved children and, yes, even for ourselves.

Mary Jane Hurley Brant, M.S., CGP, Author of When Every Day Matters, Simple Abundance Press, Sarah Ban Breathnach, Publisher

Mary Jane Hurley Brant

Mary Jane Hurley Brant, M.S.,CGP, is a practicing psychotherapist for 37 years who specializes in grief. She is author of the book, When Every Day Matters: A Mother’s Memoir of Love, Loss and Life. In this first person narrative M.J. addresses the suicide of her father when she was 13 and the life and death of her daughter, Katie, of a brain tumor. She is the founder of Mothers Finding Meaning Again. MJ can be reached through her website

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