>The Way of the Hero – myth and grieving

14 May


My son Andre was murdered in November 2009. He was 20 years old, beautiful inside and out, and was sure he was going to break into the music industry in a big way.   The last time I spoke with him, he was all excited about entering a local music competition and had set his eyes on taking it all the way to the top.  Then, on the evening of Friday, November 27, his stepfather and I were sitting at home watching television when we got the call every parent dreads.  A young man called to say he was a friend of my son who was at hospital being treated for stab wounds after a fight with another young man. It’s amazing how the world and nature seem to conspire against you in the grip of great tragedy.  Firstly, after we pulled on some street clothes to head out to the hospital, the car wouldn’t start.  I later learned that the same thing happened when Andre’s friends attempted to take him to the hospital, forcing them to run around to identify alternative transportation.  Then, when the car finally started, we ended up in a horrendous traffic jam just across from hospital.  I remember sitting there, sending him Reiki, too terrified to give in to my impulse to bail out and run the rest of the way.   By the time we got there he was dead.

I remember thinking to myself over and over “What do you do next, when the worst thing  that could ever happen has happened to you?”   Looking back I think it was the thought, and my focusing on it that saved me.  I guess every parent or anyone who has survived the death of someone really close asks themself some variation of that question.  I could not imagine that anything else in life could ever faze me . There was another thought, I don’t know where that one came from, that somehow it was important to keep my heart open.  Even in the depths of my despair, I sensed that there were two options open to me.  I could close up a hard shell around the pain I was feeling all the way from my heart to my gut, or I could force myself to feel the pain and remain open. I had the impression that if I chose the first option I might never open up again.

Maybe I was helped in part by the memory of the death of my brother, some 18 years ago, and how that had devastated my mother and me.  I knew how hard it had been for my mother , but I had seen her return to life and laughter, and so, somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew that there would be a time beyond this intense pain.

I resorted to writing fantasy as a way of dealing with the killing, weaving a tale of two ‘other-worldy’ beings, one of whom had tracked his enemy across time and space to avenge his besting at the hands of his adversary.  Actually, I only got as far as a first chapter, but I spent a lot of time on the details, and the description of the battle.  It ends when the victor, just about to deliver the fatal blow, suddenly experiences his own birth as a helpless human infant. Twenty years later, the battle again takes place on Earth, but this time he is defeated by his adversary, also now in human form.

 Many months later, I would learn that this was actually a technique proposed by shamanic energy teacher Alberto Villoldo, for dealing with the negatives in one’s life.  He calls it writing your own epic tale by turning your wounds into a source of power.  I realized that, without knowing it, I had taken the decision to rewrite my story, not necessarily to deny the reality of what had happened, but to see it as part of a wider cosmic design.

“To be a hero means being the author of your own myth…. You can accomplish this by shedding the stories of your past just as a snake sheds her skin.  In the process you will cease being a victim of what happened to you and instead become empowered to write your own valiant tale of strength, healing and beauty”.

“If you’re going to spin yarns about your life’s journey”, says Villoldo, “you might as well make them grand, ennobling ones.”   In the midst of my grief, I understood this concept, and it helped keep me sane.  

If I were to say what has been the ‘positive’ of  my multiple losses, it would have to be that I have chosen to use my pain to help others in similar circumstances and I find it is a way of paying tribute to those I have lost.  I have refused to accept the role of victim, or powerless survivor. Instead I have allowed my experience to open my eyes to the vast work that needs to be done to help others whose lives have been turned upside down by similar loss.  In my case, I feel a special affinity for the children who are grieving the loss of a parent, because I fear that if we cannot reach out to them with love, we may end up as a country perpetuating the statistics of violence and bloodletting that has dogged Jamaica for the past two decades.

 My heart goes out to all parents, to all mothers to whom has fallen the task of burying a child and I hope that even though your path may be vastly different, you too will find a reason to go on. 

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