by Robert Wilkinson
Long time readers and friends know this is a profoundly sacred day for me because of the death of one who was closer to me than my own breath. Though every day is a good day to find truth, higher awareness, or God, on January 9, 1988 my life was changed forever. Today we go deep into timeless feelings and experiences.
If you read my book, "Love Dad," you'll understand why today is profound. It offers the story of the death of my daughter, which has been my journey from being rudely shipwrecked in hell back to a life of happiness, joy, and purpose. If you have ever grieved, or are grieving, the loss of a loved one, it may offer you some comfort, help you to help another, or perhaps become stronger in your expressions of compassion and understanding.
Each year for the past 8 years, on this day I’ve offered you something related to my journey from sorrow to redemption, from despair to hope, from emptiness to renewal, and from death to life. While offerings from years past have all examined various elements of the grief process, as well as what the living must experience in loving those who have died, this year I have been moved to write about another kind of grief.
The past few weeks have given us a huge dose of murdered children, as well as adults. I have been forced to listen to, and look at, reports of slaughter of humans, both young and old. As one who appreciates the value of human life, it’s bad enough that so many die of “natural” causes; it’s an obscenity that so many die from violent means.
There is truth in the old phrase “Ask not for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” Every one of us who has ever grieved the death of a loved one feels the same sorrow, the same loss, as every other one who has ever experienced the death of someone we’ve loved. That sorrow is what links all of us throughout all time.
The grief of the parents at Sandy Hook is my grief. The grief of the parents at Dunblane is my grief. The grief of the parents at Columbine is my grief. The grief of the parents in the Middle East is my grief. The grief of the parents at Aurora is my grief. The grief of the parents of "the vanished ones" is my grief. The grief of the parents of those who died in Tucson is my grief. The grief of the parents of those who died at Virginia Tech is my grief. The grief of those who lost loved ones in Webster is my grief. The grief of every parent who ever lost a child is my grief.
The grief of parents, children, siblings, and friends who have lost a loved one anywhere in the world is my grief, since everybody that dies is somebody's child, somebody's friend, somebody's loved one. Again, ask not for whom the bell tolls, as it tolls for all of us. While not as debilitating as it was many years ago, I still feel it. That’s the price of finding a courageous approach to living with an open heart after the death of a loved one.
All parents who grieve the death of their child know the sorrow of knowing that the natural order has been turned upside down. As I noted in “Love Dad,” the young are not supposed to predecease the old. When we lose most of our loved ones, we lose a part of our past, but when we lose our children, we lose a part of our future. That turns life into chaos for those who have lost a child, or those who are close to those who have lost a child. It certainly changes their siblings’ lives forever.
There are many ways that children die. Did my child die from a gunshot wound? No, but the ways our loved ones die matters less than the fact that THEY HAVE DIED. This leaves those of us who are here on Earth to grieve, the best we’re able, the death of those who have shared our love and life. Violence is abhorrent, and the reality of death is unimaginable to those of us who just a moment before were with our loved ones who are no longer alive.
I was once told that since nothing real ever dies, then it is foolish to grieve the death of anyone. I didn’t believe that then (though I really did try), and over time and experience I really don’t believe that now. Though it was once written, “the death of a child is the greatest illusion of all,” there’s still no way to make it feel good.
When someone or something we love dies, then grief is an appropriate response, and in fact necessary if we are to move through the twilight zone of walking between worlds and find our way to a sense of timeless love and wisdom related to the death. Where there is love, one must go before the other. Our grief honors that bond of love.
Even now, the 25th anniversary of her life and death, though I don’t feel sorrow as I once did, I still feel the timeless connection to my daughter. And I can say that my grief has turned to reverence to all she meant, and means, to me. This has allowed me to feel a greater compassion for all who grieve the death of a loved one.
In my 2006 post on this day, I shared a little bit from “Love Dad” on how eventually our grief can help us see what we share with all others through all time. From the section called “Love Is The Ultimate Healer,” I wrote
... Still, as loving as you are, be careful how much grief you take on at one time. It takes time to heal your grief, and your feelings will occasionally get overloaded. Just keep loving yourself. As you heal, you will outlast and outlive the stinging acid of your sorrow. Since you do not know when the process will end, live and love one moment at a time. You do not have to push the river. Let it flow, and move through your deep feelings. Find your own level, and shift as needed. There are no medals for pushing yourself beyond your level of grief-endurance, so when in doubt, love and breathe and love. Ultimately, your emotions bind you to all others in your Soul-field within time.
At some intangible points in the process your pain becomes compassion for the pain of others, and your sorrow, the grief of the world. This opens the door to a deeper mystery around how you may be a comforter of others, thereby losing your personal sorrow in a selfless Soul service.
To which I’ll add on this 25th anniversary of her birth/death, from the section called “The Quest,”
Our “way of return” involves finding and maintaining a tremendous degree of compassionate surrender, allowing our heart’s strength and courage to come forth. We can then release our fear-based, fractured ego-self that feels separated from others, God, or life itself. The Quest always involves sacrificing all lesser things so that a greater Way, Truth, and Light may come forth.
Through embracing our quest, we enter a realm that transcends “normal” experience, and we are offered a form of participation in the collective human experience. By following our quest to heal our wound, we come to understand how much we ALL have been wounded in our human experience. We then begin to see how many others are also experiencing pain and suffering. Our grief becomes the grief of all others who have ever lost a loved one, since the first death at the beginning of time. It is what links us all across space, time, and culture.
In sharing our stories, again and again, we understand our common ground. This leads to a tremendous opening up of the heart and mind previously unimagined, a place of strength, gentleness, comprehension, and tenderness. It is a noble challenge, and will be the finest thing we could ever do. Keep love alive, whatever it takes!
Ultimately, we all share the One Life we all are together. What hurts one part of our shared life affects us all. How we find compassion and forgiveness, for self and others, after a death plays a big part in finding our way to a greater love we could demonstrate to our world. And since there are so many deaths happening every day in every way, that greater love is an absolute necessity for our fractured human race as it evolves during this time of extremes, both profane and sublime.
Though we may feel weak, inadequate, bereaved (or even relieved) after the death of a loved one, in fact we are given the potential for a great blessing in our grief. When we find a way to honor the timeless love we shared, that shared love becomes a light in our world.
Those of us fortunate enough to be alive at this time in history are probably feeling more than we’ve ever felt before. That’s due to the quickened pace of human and planetary evolution. Since we are here to learn to navigate ours and others’ emotions with some degree of calm confidence, we must learn to move through all levels of feelings, whether personal, interpersonal, or global, so that we know what we’re experiencing and can learn how to transmute the lower into the higher. That way we won’t be thrown for a loop when we’re experiencing the chaotic feelings surrounding death.
The more you feel, the more you will feel all the sorrow of the human race. All of us are learning how not to be thrown off balance by the fact that so many suffer. We cannot repress it, or turn away from it, or we will still feel badly for doing so, compounding our painful feelings. Part of what we’re all learning are techniques of healthy grief as a way of honoring the sacredness of all life, and the dead are not honored by being ignored.
When we learn how to navigate the patterns of healthy grief, we are able to enter into the intense feelings associated with the death of a loved one without getting lost in unhelpful behaviors and feelings. While we will feel the pain in the world, we do not have to suffer. Learning the patterns of healthy grief allows us over time to break the links between pain and suffering.
So if you feel deeply at the death of a loved one, or even the death of those you do not know, take solace in the realization that you are tuning into Being a greater living, loving human than you have ever been before now. Your courage in holding the sacred space will transmute your conditional love into unconditional Love. And Love is stronger than Death.
Happy 25th Birthday, Blyth. You've changed my life and countless other lives forever. Thank you for making me a better man. Love, Dad.
If you want to order "Love Dad" at the best price on the internet, please visit the Author House bookstore at the page for "Love, Dad - Healing the Grief of Losing A Child." Though it was written as a result of the death of a child, what is explored in the work are ways to move through grieving any loss of any loved one, whether child, parent, sibling, pet, friend, or any other. It can also help you understand what the bereaved are going through, and perhaps help you to be a more compassionate caregiver, if that's your privilege.
If you want to explore more about the grieving and healing process, please visit my previous articles. Each one covers different elements and approaches to healing our grief. And of course, give yourself some space and time, since they will bring up some very deep feelings.
From 2008: For Those Who Grieve the Loss of A Child
From 2010: To Those Who Grieve the Death of A Loved One
From 2012: Letting Go Of Emotional Heaviness
Copyright © 2013 Robert Wilkinson