I’ve expressed in a variety of posts how love allowed me to recover from the loss of my son. Here is perhaps one last post on this theme, which remains dear to my heart. These stories stand as one person’s testimony to the miracle of love, as it transcends from one realm to another.
Loss as a Journey in Faith
After my son died, I was sometimes told, “You never get over it.” But I had faith in a journey that could allow me to recover, believing that only good can come from love.
The difference between these two approaches may be illustrated by a story. My brother Bill, who is a psychologist, was working with a patient who had lost his daughter. Bill mentioned that he had a sister who lost her son and who thought of her loss as a journey. Some time elapsed, and one day the patient remarked, “Your sister saved my life. I had only thought that there was life before my daughter died and then there was life after she died. After she died was like arriving at a dead-end. There was nowhere to go from there. My life was over. It didn’t occur to me that my loss could be a journey. So thank your sister for saving my life.”
I felt humbled by my brother’s story because it had never occurred to me that I could possibly not be on a journey, and so had missed what is most important. That it is possible to step onto a path in loss and go places we have never been before, perhaps awakening onto a new dream.
We create our own realities by the beliefs and attitudes that we hold. In truth, life after profound loss is never the same. It is an experience that encompasses your entire being—mind, body, and spirit—and from that comes growth. It teaches you to appreciate the small gifts of life. It can change aspects of your character and personality. I became more authentic, less prone to want to prove myself. I simplified my life. Most especially, I learned what can’t be taken away. And therein lies the saving grace in loss.
When someone we love dies, we lose their physical presence, but the essence of that person lives on. The radiance of Chris’s smile is with me always, as a feature of his soul. And the love between us lives on, soul to soul—pure energy, a beam of light. It exists wholly, with holiness, in the moment unfolding. By letting go of what once existed but is forever gone, we can find the eternal bond. It takes a journey, one founded in faith, to arrive at this discovery.
Little by little, the light of love fills the void that loss leaves. You can become whole again. And you can know joy, in ways perhaps you haven’t known before.
Today I want to share the link to register for my free on-line event on July 10, 10:30, pacific time. If you can’t listen in then, it will be available for free until July 31. Just go to Hay House radio and to the title of my event: Freedom to Fall: A Spiritual Approach to Loss.
However, I encourage you to register for the live event, as it will involve interaction with listeners. You’ll be able to send in questions, and I’ll respond vocally on the show.
I am deeply grateful for being able to share my story for this seminar. I’ve always envisioned a day when I would be able to share with others my experience of loss, the journey it entailed, and the miracle of reclaiming the true bond with my son and my life. In putting together this program, I’ve come up with practices and insights to help encourage this journey in you. It can be the journey of a lifetime. It can change your life and in some cases, save your life.
Here is the link for purchasing a free on-line ticket that allows you to listen in:
I look forward to having you as guests on the program!
For the past month I’ve been writing and preparing for a live on-line Hay House seminar. It was supposed to air June 11 but was postponed until Wednesday, July 10, 10:30 PDT. This is a free event, and I will be sending out a link later for registering. You will be able to call in with questions and comments, and I certainly encourage you to do so. This event is important to me, as it is my response to what I was given after losing my son 10 years ago. Following is the course description:
Freedom to Fall: A Spiritual Approach to Loss
This course is about loss and the redemptive power of love. It is designed to help people navigate through the loss of a loved one in the best way possible, whether the loss occurred years ago or recently. This live online event will help you come to terms with a loved one’s death, finding the courage to let go while holding onto what is truly important. By making daily shifts away from the past and into the present moment, magic can happen that engenders healing.
My book, Freedom to Fall, is the story about the death of my son in a rock climbing accident and how I was able to keep our love alive, allowing me to redeem my life. This is not a love that clings but a freeing love that is joyful.
We will explore ways of cultivating a sense of a loved one’s presence after they have died as well as ways of letting go. The two go hand in hand! In those two practices you will be promoting a deep spiritual truth: Love is eternal. You never really lose who you love. Once you develop that awareness, it is yours forever—for the giving and receiving every day.
You can begin benefiting from this dynamic approach to loss today. By learning to keep alive the bond with a loved one, you begin a process of recovery. There may always be an element of sadness for losing someone you love. After all, loss is real. But a more profound reality can emerge through practice and faith—a beam of light shining through the loss, awakening invaluable gain.
On June 11, I will be offering, through Hay House live online events, a free seminar on loss and the redemptive power of love, entitled Freedom to Fall. I’ll provide details on how to register for the event later.
This post, the first in a two-part series, is an exploration of the seminar, not in content but in spirit—a personal canvas upon which I will build the course. I look forward to having you as guests on the show!
Part One: Surrender to Grief
Grieving is healing. By opening your heart to grieving, surrendering to the experience, giving it passage, you embark on journey towards feeling whole again.
In the aftermath of my son’s death, one way that I could face intense spells of grief was by going to the mirror. Standing thus, I could pour my feelings into my own reflection and be in witness of those feelings. It helped me stay with the experience and not run away. The torrent of tears and pain would soon subside, and I could gratefully rest. But there was something else about being before the mirror that truly helped: I could feel God and Chris there with me. I wasn’t alone. As I returned to bed, their compassion remained. From that time on, I always thought of Chris and God in the same breath.
In those early days, I took care of my needs in the best possible way: taking walks, resting, making wholesome meals, keeping a journal. Being in the world was hard with Chris gone, and I allowed myself the grace of small steps. Most importantly, I did not pretend. If the world was incomplete, then I could be a part of the incompleteness, not strong, but fragile. As I wrote in my journal, A mother mourning for her child is a beautiful sight. It is a reflection of the deep love. By stepping into the world openly, I encountered the kindness of strangers and safe passage through crowds—realizing again that I was not alone.
I found purpose in grieving through creative expression. Creativity in grief is cathartic. Chris’s dad made a rock garden on the hillside next to his house, complete with a waterfall. My daughter painted a portrait of Chris. I began writing a memoir. Having a meaningful project at hand gave me a reason to get up in the morning. I also found creative ways to deal with the reminder of Chris at home. For example, I put Chris’s framed pictures into a drawer until such day that I could reasonably view them. But I didn’t want to banish him from sight. He had been a rock climber and had loved the mountains with all his heart. So I collected rocks on my walks in the mountains and laid them artfully about. I also created a shrine, which included a St. Christopher medal, a statue of St. Christopher, Chris’s climbing photo album, fresh flowers, and an urn of his ashes. Months later, I tenderly set his framed photos among the relics.
Grieving the loss of my son was never one long line towards recovery. Through the years I have revisited grieving time and again. But today there is a deeper reality shining through the sadness, bringing joy. The way towards redemption—learning to keep the spirit of Chris alive—will be shared in part two, coming soon.
Excerpt from Freedom to Fall —
Sadness is a necessary part of loss. Grieving must have its day. Do not stop the tears. Allow them to freely flow. Do not turn from pain when it comes. Be with it and honor it. It will pass.
Know that this lament is not suffering, any more than winter suffers the loss of barefoot days through soft green grass. Sun-kissed crystals dangle from trees, and the white earth glistens. Honor winter, and know that spring will come. Flowers will bloom and the heart will heal. We will live and even flourish.
When my son died, I believed in the durability of love. Yet it was never a given that I could overcome loss. I had to release Chris, mustering the courage to embrace our love in the realm of the sheer airborne present.
I had been on a spiritual path for a few years, my teacher, Dawn, having opened my eyes to a higher reality, helping pave the way to receive Chris’s death. In the aftermath of his passing, I had to learn to climb the sky.
Faith and Love
On the spiritual path, climbing is a mirror image of diving. The deeper you go into the inner wellspring of life, the closer you come to God. In the midst of loss, I brought myself time and again, albeit briefly, into the sanctity of pure communion—beyond timed existence, where love never dies.
In the early days, the sense of loss was so overwhelmingly real, spiritual awareness was like sand sifting through my fingers. I tried to keep to the higher road, but couldn’t.
The beautiful thing about faith is that once it takes root, it allows you to keep on. Without faith, I would have tumbled, perhaps forever, into the past, futilely longing to reclaim what couldn’t be.
As months passed and Chris’s life on Earth receded into the distance, I pushed through uncertainty, fearing the day his spirit would also disappear and all would be lost. As months became years, I witnessed the strengthening of our soulful bond. What once was faith became faith’s rendering. God set Chris’s death before me to help me grow, opening me up to things eternal.
Excerpt from Freedom to Fall
With the coming of spring, bleak days were followed by blessed days,such divine sweetness,when the light of Heaven streamed through, and I would see with fresh eyes that Chris’s death had been purposeful….
When all of life is glad again and bursting with exuberance, the tender buds of healing can peek through. Wondrously, in the midst of tumult came a steadying sense of closeness with Chris in my heart. I could be with friends without being overwhelmed with sadness. Most significantly, for the first time, I was taking a few of Chris’s framed pictures out of the drawer where I had placed them and setting the out. Amid the pangs and birthing of spring, I created a shrine, which included pictures, a St. Christopher stature, Chris’s climbing photo album, and an urn of his ashes.
The loss of my son caused a fundamental shift in my approach to life. If what was most precious could be taken away, then what was life for? Why was I here? It seemed as though God was holding a vision for awakening to a truer life.
We create our lives in partnership with God. For Chris’s sake, I wanted to see what was possible to make the best of his passing. And if this experience was potentially life-changing, I wanted to step to the plate.
Losing Chris taught me what is important in life. I gave up trying to prove myself, to garner accolades or recognition. I stopped seeking life or trying to reap benefit or advantage. I settled down into the person I am, the life I have, and the little gifts that abound. I became more giving of myself. I opened up to a life founded in love.
In finding a more authentic life, I was able to keep my bond with Chris alive. The love that shone brightly for Chris also allowed me to heal. It allowed me to eventually step beyond the borders of grief to connect more deeply to life in the surroundings, to awaken to my humanity.
Losing Chris helped simplify my life. It revealed how fragile life is: hopes and dreams can shatter in an instant. It showed me what can never break. It is not God’s desire that we continue to suffer. God wants us to discover the truth about life—the gem at the center that allows us to thrive.
I once thought it would be impossible to survive the loss of a child. So after my son died, it seemed a wonderment that not only could I endure, I could learn to let him go.
There is no one who brings joy the way your own child does. You revel in the aliveness of your own child and the miracle of his being. You take pleasure in his pleasure and feel hurt when he is hurt. To lose a child is one of the most profound experiences of human life. — Freedom to Fall
A Mother’s Perspective
I have always believed that one of the highest expressions of love is letting go. I had approached motherhood that way—releasing my children a little at a time, encouraging them along the pathways of their own callings. But I couldn’t face the finality of releasing Chris to God, at least not alone. Through God’s mercy, a golden cord was forged between us stretching from Heaven to Earth, which could never be broken.