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Good Grief

Celebrating the Sorrows of Life

Well, enough about me. In the past month, I have been chronicling my medical misadventures and the good news is that I am in a deliciously boring recovery making a little progress every day. I am living primarily in the land of gratitude and happy to be here. Literally.

When I began this blog originally it was about sharing the story of our family going through my Stage IV cancer together. However, as time has gone by, I have decided to open the framework to share my thoughts and experiences about this odd thing we share called life. Here’s the blog I was working on before I was diagnosed with serious heart disease. Enjoy.

Good Grief:

Celebrating the Sorrows of Our Lives

The auditorium was silent except for the scratching of pens and the rustle of paper. I had already written my note to my dead mother. Every participants (all therapists) were writing to someone living or dead about an unresolved grief or issue between them. I gave them more time and then gently asked them to close.

After I shared my letter with them, I invited them to share. Several brave people in this group of 150 volunteered to read to us their letters.

A severely overweight beautiful young woman wrote her father:


Look at me. I have layers and layers of fat to protect from being checked out by men the way you looked at me when I was developing. You teased me about my “baby boobies” and wanted to know how much hair I had “down there”. Your eyes made my skin crawl. I don’t want any man ever looking at me that way. I’d rather be alone. Thanks, Dad”

I felt the sting of tears. People reached for their tissues. Another hand went up.

An older man read in an angry voice.

Dear Mr Sullivan,

Yes, I remember your name after 54 years. I have never forgotten your sneering voice as threw my term paper back to me.”This is way too good, Fletcher. I know a plagiarizing cheat when I see one. The term paper that I had poured my heart and soul into, that I was so proud of, had big red lettered F on it.

I just wanted you to know that I have never forgotten or forgiven you, asshole. And just so you know, I’ve had a great life, family, career. And guess what. I’ve written two books that have been pretty well received.

The audience broke into a spontaneous round of applause and our guy smiled and shook his fist in the air.

There was one more volunteer. An Asian man ion the back row, carefully stood up as did his seeing eye dog. He seemed to look lost as he glanced sightlessly around the room.

“I don’t actually write since, it happened but I do know what I would write to my three kids. I would say that I am so sorry that I can’t see them, can’t see their faces as they grow up and change. I would say I am sorry that I can’t throw a ball with my son or see my little girl when’s playing dress ups, or look at my older daughter’s A’s on her report card. That’s all

And then he abruptly sat down. The whole room was in soft silence. We were a moment of profound community and connection: grieving together

Everyone will someday lose everything they have ever loved or cared for. That’s the truth of life itself. Not new news either. The Buddha was teaching about how to cope with this simple noble truth, this fundamental human grief, in the 5th century B.C. And all religions attempt to help us reconcile with this harsh reality in one way or another.

But our grief is not simply about losing a loved one or facing our own mortality. Whether it’s losing a job, a marriage, a dream, or our youth, we all have had our hearts broken. Each of has lost our innocence, and made mistakes, and done harm and been harmed along the way. We all have with our individual stories of the when, where, how, what, and who of our heartbreaks.. Each of our stories is tenderly unique and yet all of us have a story.

Rather than being defined as a mental or medical disturbance necessitating medication and psychotherapy, grief is the human condition; the tie that binds us all together. Since the beginning of time humankind has dealt with inevitable pain of life itself through seeking connection and community. Whether it’s a band of Cro-Magnon huddled around a fire underneath the cold canopy of stars or a group of alcoholics in a church basement, the healing words are simply, “Me too”

Grieving together heals.

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