The Upside of Sadness in Our Grief Journeys

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Entitled No More

During the last few days of my existence, I have experienced more sadness than usual. Considering that I am a parent whose child died  over 11 years ago, I could justify my sadness as something that I was entitled to because of my daughter Jeannine’s death. However, entitlement hasn’t been a part of my vocabulary for a long time. I have learned to express gratitude for the blessings in my life, as opposed to regret over what I don’t have or what I feel that I am entitled to have. Plus I have found my peace with Jeannine’s death because of my willingness to embrace a new relationship with her and because of her ongoing presence in my life. Being at peace doesn’t mean that occasional sadness isn’t part of the deal; I have learned to honor my sadness as another opportunity for further learning and transformation. With that in mind, I want to share my thoughts and observations about my latest episode of sadness.

Last Day of Classes

For me, honoring my sadness means embracing it so that I can discover connections and/or teachings that can provide further clarity as I navigate my life path after the death of my daughter.

This past Wednesday (5/14/14) was the defining moment for my most recent episode of sadness.  On that day, another semester of college teaching at Utica College ended. I have always felt some sadness at the end of each of my semesters of teaching because of the joy I experience from working with the students and the joy I experience from connecting with the faculty of the psychology department. This past semester had a surreal quality to it however. One of our longtime faculty members and one of my first psychology professors, Thom Brown died in February. Thom first arrived at Utica College in 1975 when I was a student in the psychology department. I was among the first group of students that he ever taught. Following his death, I was asked to take over two of his classes for the rest of the semester. Thom was scheduled to retire after this semester; one of my students commented that I was present for both Thom’s first class and what would have been his last class. I think that the impact of my student’s insightful observation hit me like a runaway freight train after the final exam for Thom’s last class concluded.

Later that day, I took a walk around my neighborhood to clear my head a little and shortly thereafter, I found a single, very worn 1987 penny. My thoughts immediately gravitated to the year Jeannine was born, which was 1984. Jeannine would have been three years old in 1987. Jeannine died in the month of March or the third month of the year.  One of the tools that I have discovered that have enabled me to develop clarity in recent years has been the teachings in numerology. Ted Andrews, in his book Animal Speaks”, describes the positive qualities of the number three as: creativity, birth, and mystical (Andrews, P.52).

Combined Forces

Thom, Jeannine and the number 3 combined forces to help me discover new insights in the midst of sadness. There was a mystical symbolism inherent in the fact that I took over what would have been Thom’s final classes this semester, given the fact that I was one of his students during the beginning of his career at Utica College.  I am reminded now that it is a mysticism that should be recalled with awe and a sense of wonderment in the ways of the universe and not with sadness. Thom and Jeannine also reminded me that their death was a birth or rebirth into a new existence where they will continue to evolve and grow. And if we truly believe that life exists on other dimensions, and as long as we walk in awareness, our deceased loved ones will continue to influence our lives in ways that we could never have imagined.

“When you realize that other dimensions exist, you’ll never think of life, death, yourself or the universe in the same way again.”

The Afterlife of Billy Fingers- a true story by Annie Kagan

 

David Roberts

More Articles Written by David

David J. Roberts, LMSW, became a parent who experienced the death of a child, when his daughter Jeannine died of cancer on 3/1/03 at the age of 18. He is a retired addiction professional and an adjunct professor in the psychology department at Utica College in Utica, New York. Dave is a featured speaker, workshop facilitator and coach for Aspire Place, LLC (www.aspireplace.com) He is also the chapter leader for The Compassionate Friends of the Mohawk Valley. Mr. Roberts has been a presenter at the Southern Humanities Council Conference in both 2017 and 2018. Dave has been a past workshop facilitator for The Compassionate Friends. He has also been a past workshop facilitator and keynote speaker for The Bereaved Parents of the USA. Mr. Roberts has contributed articles to the Huffington Post blog, The Grief Toolbox, Recovering the Self Journal and Medium. One of Dave's articles, My Daughter is Never Far Away, can also be found in Open to Hope: Inspirational Stories of Healing and Loss. Excerpts from Dave's article for The Open to Hope Foundation, called The Broken Places were featured in the 2012 Paraclete Press DVD video, Grieving the Sudden Death of a Loved One. He has appeared on numerous radio and internet broadcasts and Open to Hope Television. Dave was also part of a panel in 2016 for the BBC Podcast, World Have Your Say, with other grief experts, discussing the death of Carrie Fisher. Dave’s website: www.bootsyandangel.com is devoted to providing support and resources for individuals experiencing loss.

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  • Glenda says:

    Dave what a great reminder to us! There is that magical side to it all, if we are willing to see something from a different view. You are a blessing to all who know you. Thanks for sharing