Fog of Disbelief

The morning after our son’s accident, my husband Matt and I sat with the neurosurgeon in a small reception room off the hospital trauma unit. He explained brain stem death and Timmy’s inability to recover. I was listening intently through a fog of disbelief. I needed to understand exactly what had happened to my son, grasping for any straw of hope. The doctor was taking great pains to answer all of our questions, wanting to provide some comfort. At some point, he stopped, nodded toward Matt, and quietly asked me, “Is he going to be okay?”

I looked over to see my husband slumped forward, head in hands, a pool of grief. In what universe is he ever going to be okay?! I thought. He has just been told his youngest child, his sweet boy, is gone. At the same time, I thought, of course, he is going to be okay; we are going to be okay because we have no choice and because we have each other. What neither of us could possibly bear alone, we could bear together. Our marriage would hold us.

Our Psyches Deconstructed

Timmy’s death completely shattered our lives, bringing down all the walls. As we each grasped for threads, struggled for handholds, we also held the weight of the other’s very individual and separate grief.

We leaned into every support we had, individually and as a couple. Although living independent adult lives, Tyler and Cassedy returned home to hold a form of family together. Our extended family and dear friends arrived with the best gift—their presence. Timmy’s friends inhabited our home, as they had in their teenage years, and conjured a sense of his presence in their grief and remembrance. Our yoga practice, faith community, family, and marriage guided us through those early days, one uncertain step at a time, as we made a way forward into a complete unknown.

Relationship Enters a ‘Tender Trance’

Matt and I were in a tender trance, together and most deeply alone, isolated within the surreality that our youngest son was dying. We moved through the rituals of the next weeks in shock. Our home was filled with family and friends, but the upper room was reserved as a sanctuary for our intimate grief.

I spent the early days downstairs at our dining room table surrounded by friends and family, sharing stories and photos and planning for the rituals to come. This is where my extroverted soul found comfort. Matt spent most of his time upstairs, alone and in deep, solitary grief. I was very aware of him. I joined him upstairs at times, as did a few close friends who were willing to stand the heat of his despair. We didn’t talk much. We slept well, a blessed escape.

Caring for our adult son and daughter and Timmy’s dear shattered friends in their open grief and being present to Matt’s all-consuming sadness required that I hold my own grief somewhat apart. In fact, mothering them nurtured me as well. The bond of love overcame the depth of our individual griefs as we gathered to do the work of remembrance.

Excerpted from Marriage Unveiled: The Promise, Passion, and Pitfalls of Imperfectly Ever After by Sherry Cassedy. Learn more at

Sherry Cassedy

Sherry Cassedy has practiced law and mediation for 29 years and currently has a mediation and private judging practice in Palo Alto, CA ( Ms. Cassedy has also served as an adjunct faculty member at Sofia University (formerly the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology), and in the Religious Studies Department at Santa Clara University. Ms. Cassedy, MA, Institute of Transpersonal Psychology, and Certificate in Spiritual Guidance, offers spiritual guidance, yoga instruction and seasonal retreats on spiritual topics. Sherry is a passionate student of yoga philosophy and other spiritual teachings, which she incorporates into her yin and restorative yoga classes. She is also a licensed minister and works with couples in preparing and officiating marriage ceremonies. Sherry has been married to Matthew Sullivan, PhD for almost 35 years and they have three children, Tyler Sullivan, Cassedy Sullivan and Timothy Sullivan (Deceased 2010). Sherry lives in Santa Cruz, CA where she teaches and writes.

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