Soulful Grief

186794_9123I was a nine-year-old boy – almost ten. Recollection says I was sitting at the kitchen table with my family members on that sunny spring morning when tragic events forced the axis of our collective earth to suddenly and violently shift. I was trying to understand what had been said–that John, my big brother, had been killed in a car accident on his way back to university.

He was much more than just my oldest brother, he was my best friend, teacher, mentor, coach and guardian. He was the one who taught me to throw a ball, snag a grounder, ice skate and went with me to the father-son Cub Scout dinner. Memory tells me, John was the one who went with me or guided me most everywhere and on everything. He provided security, that one-to-be-safe-with place, and a knowing that I was loved. I was trying as best I could to comprehend what that meant – to me.

My family in those days had been very strongly connected to the church, as my grandfather had been an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church. My Aunt Jean for whom the church and her faith was everything – it was indeed her life. When I asked what then seemed like a simple question “why did this happen?” – she gave me that answer thatbest made sense to her and her newly grief-stricken heart – “he had gone to be with the Angels, that Jesus wanted him there”. I recall getting angry, that God should have known that I needed him here!

What was going to happen to me? Who was going to look after me? Dad was always at work, and Mom was just too angry to be around most of the time. I felt alone and so scared in the company of strangers.

In the years ahead, Dad climbed into his work and the bottle, and Mom went further into her anger. We all cope in our own way and that was theirs. I rebelled with all the frustrated fury I could muster – at everyone and everything. What life was going to be like without him was just way too big of a question to be asked and answered at that moment. It would take years to formulate the question, and decades for it to be only partially answered.
Time wore on – life events came and went but one had stayed with me – that morning in 1965 at the kitchen table. I knew that it had shaped my life and in some ways the results were not good. I needed more understanding from that area of my being. Some soulful grief tilling had been done, but not enough.  I came to Bereaved Families to support a friend whose teenage son had completed suicide. We mutually wondered out loud as we walked in to our first session – would both get what we were looking for? We did and I did. I heard and learned many things about grief, bereavement and mourning from the Mentors/Facilitators. Our group benefi ted fromclear compassionate answers to our queries from folks who had walked the healing paths ahead of us.

I received answers to questions that had never been considered by me, was empathetically informed that our common grief experience was natural, normal and human. I had been broken down at the Spirit level by a tragic event; not made defective. It felt good – no, it was comforting, to sense that these folks knew where I am heading simply because they have been to where I need to be. Their gift to us is to
come back and show us how to get to that place of recuperation for the wounded soul.


By Bill Allan