From Grief to Gratitude

“I am still grieving my son’s loss as if it happened yesterday.  A bright part of my life is forever extinguished. I have come to realize that the grief I feel will never go away but become something I just learn to live with. I ache for him every year on his birthday, every Christmas, when I see someone who looks like him, or something that reminds me of him. On the anniversary of his death, I am taken back to the day his brother called and said, ‘Mom, Justin is gone, they found his body in the river’, and my heart stopped….” Excerpt from the author’s statement as read to a defendant in her son’s murder case parole hearing April 2018

Many who are reading this may be able to relate to my words. You may be able to put yourself in that place where shocking words spoken by someone else brought you to a place where your world stopped moving and you could not take in another breath.

Or perhaps you have witnessed someone else in that place and did not know how to respond or what to say. Or maybe watched and were grateful you did not have to process the reality of hearing that a son or daughter, husband, wife, partner, or father, mother, sibling or someone you loved was just brutally murdered, or died suddenly by trauma or violence.

No matter what your life reality has been, the pain of loss, and the death of something important in your life, but most especially of a loved one, impacts us and our daily living experience. Grief touches us in many ways and in many forms and it is our role to unravel it in order to embrace it and learn to rediscover a more meaningful life because of it.

My grief experience has become a life lesson that has allowed me to embrace grief and shift into a place of gratitude for everything – surprisingly. The following pages invite you to begin breathing again, from wherever you are, and allow the gift of grief to heal, empower, and restore your vitality for living fully.

Have you ever experienced a moment when you felt for sure you may never take another breath? That time stopped and it seemed life has ended? That is what happens when our minds receive something from the world outside ourselves that is more than we can take. Our rational brain cannot process the reality of something we had not anticipated or could ever conceive of in
our life experience. It is as if we shut down temporarily for a moment in time so our body can catch up to what our mind is processing. At least that is how I have come to explain what happened to me. I go back to that moment when it felt like my heart stopped, when it felt like I could not take in another breath and reality stood still as I attempted to grasp what I had just

My response was, “Wait, what?” as if I had heard wrong, that could not have been what my son, Ryan, the older of my two sons, on the other end of the line had just said. When he repeated it, those around me noticed I had turned white; that something definitely was wrong.

Michael, my best partner ever, and now husband, put his arms around me not even yet knowing what was wrong. In my stunned moment of comprehending the truth of what I had heard, I could not even cry. I went numb. I believe it is our body’s defense mechanism to protect us until we are able to process fully.

There is a divinely designed system that takes over when we have stopped functioning as we normally would. In hindsight, I can be grateful for that automatic internal-care function or I believe I would have had heart failure. The first 48 hours after receiving those horrendous words, “Mom, Justin is gone, they found his body in a river, I literally sleepwalked through time. I laid my head down but did not sleep – my mind played over and over again what had happened and tried to answer the question “why?” Eventually I came to accept there is no “why” in murder or in most things that seem to “happen” to us. We cannot rationalize the why, only come to accept the what. But in the first few days and weeks, acceptance is not a place we can arrive.

My heart wrestled with the reality I would never be able to look into my son’s beautiful blue eyes or hug him again, and I ached. I still ache. That is something that never seems to go away, even after seven years. It just gets to be more familiar, something I have come to live with even though I will never like how it feels. And there are moments when I want to scream out as much as I did in those first few days … the hurting is so intense.

I have to say it really sucks! I can truly understand why someone would want to bury themselves in addiction to remain numb. It is very tempting. But it does not release us from having to deal with the reality and come to terms with it at some point. The thing is, we can never be released from coming to terms with everything life throws at us; it is the reality of living. And if we want to live, we must take steps to move forward and embrace all of life to heal, transform, and be free to create our infinite potential of living life with meaning and purpose. I choose to live – that was the decision I made when I came back from my numb state of existence.

As you read this book, I hope to support you wherever you are on your life path, knowing grief is part of our human experience. We cannot escape grief in our lifetime. My intention is also to offer you hope.

I want to unravel this concept of grief, to dissect it and see it for what it is. But also to challenge you to embrace grief as your teacher and commit yourself to practicing the exercises and tools offered throughout this book to help you transform whatever pain and loss you may be experiencing into a meaningful life that demonstrates your heart-felt dreams and ambitions – because you choose to embrace it all and keep moving forward.

In the process, I invite you to consciously choose to align with gratitude as a foundational guide to living; and thus rediscover the absolute brilliance of YOU! Become a richer more creative expression of your divine potential because of the life experiences you have been blessed with. And yes, I meant to say, “blessed with.” That is the gift in unraveling and ultimately embracing grief: to know we are blessed because we mourned. We took the time to seek the value of the gift grief may offer.

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Meghan Smith Brooks

Meghan Smith Brooks helps those impacted by grief, especially from the loss of a child, to experience healing in ways that honor their loved one’s life and allows them to find new meaning moving forward. Originally from the Northwest, Meghan is an Ordained Unity minister, speaker, retreat facilitator, certified grief coach, and author of Unraveling Grief: A Mother’s Spiritual Journey of Healing and Discovery, based on her personal grief journey after the murder of her 29 year-old son Justin in 2013, with a foreword by Marianne Williamson. Using the formula from her book, she offers grief coaching and her Unraveling Grief to Thrive online course that has made a difference in the lives of those impacted by grief. Along with her husband and partner, Michael Brooks, Meghan is also Co-Founder and Spiritual Director of alternative ministry Unity Awakening Ways. They currently make their home in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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