April 13, 2023 by Peter H. Ratcliffe
As I write this, I am a retired 69 year old Canadian husband (once and still), father of two (one deceased) and grandfather of two beautiful and brilliant grandkids. The eBook that I am writing, and this website and blog are dedicated to our late son with thanks for what his life and loss continues to teach me about love.
This blog site is perhaps a rarity: a simple man talking openly and calmly about my grief is not how "typical" males usually present. Coming to this point in my life has taken many years, and I am vulnerable here with the intent of causing good things to happen in how some people might come to see grief. I have no negative purpose or hidden agenda.
Disclaimer: My thoughts and interpretations may not be applicable to your grief, this blog and my writing contains honest thoughts that may trigger you as easily as they might guide you. If my thoughts are of no value, or of negative value to you, please seek answers and guidance elsewhere. Grief is the most personal of journeys, and there is no one path, no one solution for the challenges that grief brings to your life. That said, whatever triggers you to anger is probably something that you need to work on for a more peaceful life.
Stay, leave, come back often, never come back, it's your choice. This website has no income potential or monetary purpose for me, it is discussion that I feel that I have been called to offer people who might need a shoulder to lean on, or a hand to guide them.
For me to become credible to you, it's important for you to know a bit about me, my qualification (or lack thereof), and especially some of my journeys through grief.
I am not formally trained, my training is experiential and quite deep. My experience with grief has been primarily with untimely and unexpected death. My credentials are not degrees on my walls, but a collection of well healed deep scars on my soul from healing losses. Most of us hide the scars on our souls, we fear them as weaknesses that others might exploit.
I have been hurt to the point that almost nothing could hurt me more, and have healed comfortably from those injuries. I will carefully share my scarred soul with you, so that you might find more hope in healing well and coming back to truly loving life after whatever loss brings you here. For me, there is little more beautiful than a human soul that has healed from loss again and again. Through healing, we are freed from being defined by our losses. We are instead defined by the mountains that we have climbed onto as we have healed those losses, and the different perspectives that loss has enriched our lives with.
We have a perceived timeline of what our life is meant to be in the context of the universe. We speak of average life expectancy at birth and at any point in a lifetime, but there are no guarantees that our life, or the life of any of our loved ones will be average, worse than average, or better than average. Subconsciously we will register each death against the concept of an average life, and often use the word fair in that discussion. A shorter life is unfair, a longer life is preferred.
Suicide is complicated by the victim making the choice to end their own life. In a later chapter I will discuss the details that I can understand about the suicide of my brother twenty-three years ago when he was 43, which was my first very personal major grief. Suicide is more complicated by the widespread collateral damage to the survivors, family and friends seeking answers that no one has. The moral and religious context of suicide further complicates the grief that surrounds it, and try as we might there is a large element of shame that further isolates the survivors.
The second major death I grieved was Eugene, a key employee of my small company, a man who was my best friend, a trusted and loyal part of my life and an integral part of my company and income for two decades. This death was also untimely, in that he was in his early 40’s and died at home one night of an undiagnosed heart problem. For me it was complicated more by happening a few months after my brother’s suicide, when my grief was unhealed, not yet organized, when more grief piled on with Eugene's death.
Five years after my brother’s suicide, four years after Eugene’s sudden unexpected death, our 20 year old son James died in a firefighter training accident in our small home town. The accident was avoidable, a result of poor choices at many levels of a municipal government, so blame and anger across a community further complicated grief.
Those three major untimely and unexpected losses were indeed challenging, but the experience and understanding gained from each helped me with the successive challenges. That said, loss of a child is probably considered the most challenging form of grief. The tools gained thru therapy after my brother’s suicide provided little satisfaction or acceptance in the death of our son. The commonly used staging of grief, the concept that grief has a beginning, some number of stages, and then a conclusion called acceptance, was unproductive for me in dealing with the loss of our son.
It was this third challenge that forced me to seek different perspectives, tools, and methods to resolve my grief. Looking back, I spent five years struggling for acceptance within common teachings on grief and then another five gradually finding my different paths to comfort, and then a bunch of years trying to organize my thoughts into something presentable and coherent.
In writings and in speaking to people about their losses, many have encouraged me to write a book on grief. Writing about personal losses is challenging, and I have started that book many times without finishing it. This process of blogging and writing a non-commercial self-published eBook to give away to those who may need some help or insight into grief is designed to keep me honestly engaged. These are my different understandings of the human soul and the most uniquely human emotion that we call love, and what happens when we lose a loved one. I'm slowly (hopefully very slowly) running out of years to share these thoughts and ideas as a legacy.
It has been my great honour to walk beside people who grieve, not pulling or pushing, just keeping them company and giving them someone to talk to. For many, grief will be the most profound loneliness that they will ever experience, and that loneliness can have devastating consequences. I am told that I am comfortable and comforting to talk to. My writing will try to be conversational, if you pause reading to speak your thoughts or even to write me, you will flatter me and reinforce this purpose I have chosen.
I have been called "wise" by some. I can't judge myself, but know that I believe that what we humans call wisdom, in its purest form is always acquired by healing great pain into truth.
Some have even said that I have "grace". Again I can't judge myself, but know that I believe that what we humans call grace is universally the result of becoming wise without becoming angry for the pain that acquiring wisdom brought to us.
More than one might wrongly tell you that I helped save their life. If so, I have only helped them to find enough reasons for them to save their own lives. They each did the hard work, I was merely a bystander or spotter ready to try to catch them before they fell.
Be well, seek peace, build love. These words evolved in a years long conversation by email in support of someone grieving multiple losses as a way to end my emails with some reminder of purpose.
Be well, seek peace, build love, and welcome to DistillingGrief.com.