I first really comprehended the seduction of collective grief thirty years ago when John Lennon was murdered in 1980.  In fact, as I write these words it is December 8, 2010, thirty years to the day that John Lennon was senselessly murdered. I was shocked and stunned when I heard the news. Throughout the day I talked about it to everyone. Akin to the experience of 9-11-2001 many years later, it consumed my thoughts throughout the day and weeks that followed. I was in a very subtle by pervasive cloud of sadness and despair.  That is collective grief, the response to our collective loss.

When John F. Kennedy was assassinated, I was 8 years old and I still remember the hysteria on television that took over our country. I saw grown men cry that did not even know him. The next year, in 1964, I saw women on TV screaming and crying while listening to a live performance of The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show. I even thought to myself back then how weird on both counts for people to react with such high charged emotions for a person they don’t even know.

I saw the nation gripped again in 1968 when Martin Luther King was assassinated, and I witnessed the groundswell of grief and the rage of injustice that his loss created in this country.  In those years and many others we lost Marylyn Monroe, James Dean, Buddy Holly, Elvis, Michael Jackson, Rock Hudson and more. We had the mass tragedies of The Viet Nam War, Oklahoma City bombings, 911, a plethora of school shootings, Hurricane Katrina and many more national and global losses in staggering numbers. Collectively people mourn, yet not having known the person at all, only knowing of them.

In 1997, Mother Teresa and Princess Diana died within days of each other; Princess Diana’s death far overshadowed that of Mother Teresa worldwide. Oddly enough which is what Mother Teresa would have preferred, but clearly shows the how a society acts based upon notoriety as well. We nationally and globally mourn as a school of fish who together turn abruptly or as the flock of geese change formation together, we do it from a deep common bond. We recognize the pain in each other at a deep level and it amplifies our energy  in a way that we are synergized; symbiotically, we nurture one another, we  kiss the boo-boo that hurts our each other’s soul without  thought or intent; it is pure action on a heart level.

Elizabeth Edwards lost her 16-year-old son from something she beyond her means to control; years later, she loses her marriage as well.  Her life, her book …has inspired the bereaved American people, especially the bereaved parent. She has credibility as one who speaks her mind, and has been to depths of despair that one should never know.

This woman fought the fight, but did not survive, and she now joins her son.  Of course, reticent to leave her other children, she believed in a reunion with her son, a belief which nurtures peaceful acceptance.  Elizabeth did a lot to give recognition to the bereaved parent/family and the complexity of their journey.  Her experience, her love, has helped countless others on their journey. 

I am so glad as a country that we grieve for her loss publicly and collectively, not only because of her notoriety but because of her heart. Her husband’s name may fade from people’s memories but hers will not. 

Namaste, Elizabeth.

Mitch Carmody 2010

Mitch Carmody

After suffering many familial losses from a young age and ultimately with the death of his nine-year-old son of cancer in 1987, Mitch Carmody, has struggled with the grief journey and how grief is processed and perceived in this country. He published a book in 2002 called “Letters To My Son, a journey through grief." The book has now reached the bereaved in every state and 7 other countries. From the book’s success he now travels locally and around the country lecturing on the grief process and/or conducting workshops on surviving the loss of a loved one. He has also conducted a variety of workshops with The Compassionate Friends and Bereaved Parents USA as well as a sought after speaker for many keynote presentations. As a trained hospice volunteer, he has also helped many loved ones and their families through the dying process. Mitch has published several articles in national bereavement periodicals, is a frequent contributor to TCF Atlanta On-line and currently a staff writer for Living with Loss Magazine. Through email correspondence on his website he council’s the bereaved on a daily basis. Since the death of his son 19 years ago, Mitch has dedicated his life to helping those individuals and families whom are trying to navigate in the uncharted territory of death, dying and the bereavement process. Through his compassionate insight and gentle spirit he will touch your heart and hopefully give you tools to aid you on your journey Mitch lives in rural Minnesota with my wife of thirty years, he enjoys riding my horses, gardening, writing, helping others, giving blood monthly and creating works of art. He is also a proud first time grandfather to the daughter of their surviving daughter Meagan. To learn more about Mitch and his work, go to: www.HeartlightStudios.net. Mitch appeared on the radio show “Healing the Grieving Heart” discussing “Letters From My Son.” To hear Mitch being interviewed on this show by Dr. Gloria and Dr. Heidi Horsley, click on the following link: www.voiceamericapd.com/health/010157/horsley042706.mp3 Mitch appeared again on the radio show “Healing the Grieving Heart” discussing the Holidays, Helpful or Hurtful? To hear Mitch interviewed by Dr. Gloria & Dr. Heidi Horsley, click on the following link: www.voiceamericapd.com/health/010157/horsley122508.mp3

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