When   my   wife   and   I   were      told      that      our      sixteen      year   old   son Jonathan   had   terminal   cancer,   it   felt   like   I   was   flayed.   From   that moment   till   he   died   and   for   months   thereafter   everything   felt   like salt   on   my   burning   flesh.   Of   the   many   friends   I   had   made   two   or three   called;   most   preferred   to   ‘leave   us   alone’.   I   was   told:   ‘he   is in   a   better   place’;   ‘time   heals   everything’;   ‘you   have   to   move   on’; ‘get   over   it’;   ‘the   lord   gives   and   the   lord   takes’;   ‘you   have   to   be back   at   work   in   ten   days   that’s   the   law,   I   don’t   care’;   ‘remove   all photographs   of   your   son’;   it   is   long   enough,   stop   this   whining’; ‘you   must   get   over   this’;   ‘don’t   look   at   pictures   of   your   son;’ ‘forget   about   him’;   ‘he   was   sick   for   so   long   it   is   better   this   way’ etc.   A   friend   who   claims   he   ‘hears   God’s   voice’   while   praying and   ‘lives   according   to   the   Bible’   turned   vicious   and   accused   me of stealing, conniving and corruption.  Having   experienced   my   child   die,   I   know   how   extremely   painful, heart      breaking,   lonely   and   desperately   frightening   this   journey is.   No   words   can   take   away   the   pain;   it   cannot   be   overcome; and   telling   me   my   child   is   in   a   better   place   is   no   consolation   at all.  Grief   journey :   This   journey   I   am   on   is   not   of   my   choosing.   I did   not   plan   or   prepare   for   it.   Being   now   on   this   journey,   I   am learning   and   have   begun   to   compare   it   to   a   forest   of   which   I know   not   the   terrain.   I   know   not   how   thick   the   forest   is,   if   there are   wild   animals,   quick-sand   or   wolves   pretending   to   be   sheep or    even    how    long    it    will    take    me    to    get    out    of    it.    I    get information   on   what   to   expect   from   many,   but   most   are   like traffic   announcers   who   are   not   in   the   storm   or   in   this   forest   I am   in.   Can   they   map   out   my   path,   tell   me   its   nature,   where   it leads    or    if    I    will    encounter    wild    animals,    quick-sand    and wolves?   One   that   has   travelled   this   forest   or   lives   in   it   can   tell me what it is like. This   is   my   journey,   I   have   to   travel   my   journey .   Contrary   to   what   some   tell   me   that   I   must   forget   my   son,   get   over   him, resolve,   surpass   and   forget   the   grief   or   that   my   faith   is   weak/non-existent   and   that   this   is   God’s   consequential   punishment,   my experience   is   that   grief   is   not   an   obstacle   to   get   over,   a   mountain   to   climb   or   the   wrath   of   God.   Rather   it   is   the   consequence   of having   been   ripped   apart   from   one   that   I   loved   deeply. The   grief   and   pain   is   directly   proportional   to   the   depth   of   love   between   me and   my   son.   Like   love,   this   grief   and   pain   are   parts   of   me,   integrated   with   my   Spirit,   and   an   experience   that   Spirit   travels   with.   I am   learning   to   live   with   grief,   as   I   learned   to   live   with   my   fractured   left   leg   that   after   40   years   still   brings   memories   of   my childhood bicycle accident. If   I   fear   the   sun   and   run   way   from   it,   a   shadow   will   loom   ahead   of   me   and   the   further   I   run   the   bigger   it   will   get.    When   I face   the   sun,   the   shadow   is   behind   me.   Similarly   I   must   face my   grief   and   not   run   away.   That   is   the   only   way.   Grief   is   not   a problem   to   be   solved,   a   mountain   to   be   climbed   or   a   obstacle   to be   overcome.   I   broke   my   leg   40   years   ago   and   still   limp   as   a result,    but    I    walk,    play,    dance    and    do    other    things.    I    have experienced   the   death   of   my   son   and   the   resultant   pain   and grief   is   something   I   walk   my   life   journey   with.   Grief   is   neither made   up   nor   an   act   as   some   say   it   is.   It   is   very   real,   it   is   felt   by the   senses   and   more   so   by   Spirit.   One   cannot   turn   away   from   it or   hide   it   under   the   bed.   One   has   to   face   it.   This   is   why   I   am studying   pain   and   grief   through   my   personal   experience   and   by associating with others having similar experiences. If   you   are   in   a   similar   situation,   I   offer   you   my   friendship.   I   am neither   a   counsellor   nor   a   coach,   I   am   just   someone   who   is finding    my    way    through    this    forest,    I    do    not    know    what    to expect,   when   and   where.   But   I   hope   that   we   can   maneuver   this   journey   together,   borrow   each   other’s   strength   and   when   wild animals or wolves attack we will find a way to endure and continue on our journey. Sometimes we will cry, and sometimes our pain will be as wondrous as our joy! - Vince Leitao  
Vince Leitao - Author and Experiential Grief Student
Don’t run away from grief, o’Soul…look for the remedy inside the pain - Jalalad-Din Rumi
© Copyright 2016 Vince Leitao. All rights reserved
Bereavement is described as: To be deprived of a loved one as a result of a profound experience or death