We heal when we gather within our common ground and walk our common path. We speak of the ones we love and have lost and find others who know love, know loss…and know us.

Benjamin Search for meaningA friend of mine and I were talking at the end of Matt’s life. Lydia and I knew Maria before Matt was even born. She was one of Lydia’s closest friends and even after Lydia died she was a tender part of Matt and my life. She did not shy from sorrow and held a beautiful space of love.

We had come to the end of Matt’s life, which at that time, was the end of mine. Maria told me a parable.

There was a man who had put a rope over a tree and the noose around his neck. Another man approached him and asked, “Why are you going to kill yourself?”

The man answered, “I have lost everything. My family has died. I have lost our farm. I have lost my work. I have nothing left.”

The other man softly responded, “No, my friend. What you have left is your story.”

I first met Rachel in Chiang Mai, Thailand. We had lunch together the day after we met. She was soon to leave for a retreat in India and I was leaving for Australia. We shared our stories.

Benjamin Story to tellI have always been keenly aware of what to say and what not to say about my life, not for my sake, but for others. Like dipping my toe in the water before diving in I would venture cautiously into my story by nonchalantly mentioning that my family died. I can tell immediately whether someone wants to go further or that was a far as it needed to go.

There is a difference in telling a story and sharing a story. For those that have stories filled with loss it is a sharing of the journey in deep places that heal. I can sit with another in the depths of life and loss and listen to their story and feel they are sharing mine.

When I meet someone on this road, I want to know what happened and how it is shaping their life. I want to see pictures. I have heard that some ancient cultures do not want their pictures taken because they believe it captures the soul. I feel every picture is a reflection of spirit and I want to connect to the one holding the picture and the one in the picture. I feel closer to both holding the image in my heart.

I shared my story that day with Rachel. I knew she could go there and I suppose she knew that was where I could be found. We met several years after Matt died. Yet, I was still unfolding the remnants of me. She touched those fragments with tenderness.

We all need someone who can find us when loss leaves us lost. My search for meaning took me into some very dark places. I couldn’t find my way out. Someone had to find their way in.

It was several years after Rachel and I met when I felt drawn to finally write my story. I had resisted the sharing of my story for a long time, but something said it was time. I truly hope that if you are drawn to my story you will find yours in its pages.

I didn’t know where to start. I had no idea what to share that would be of use to another. It was Rachel who suggested the beginning.

Rachel and I didn’t get together for a year after we met. She continued to live in Thailand and I was living in Australia. We reconnected through an online writing group and our friendship took off where it left off.

One of the exercises we did was to send an email to each other with one word. The agreement was that we would write immediately upon seeing the word. We would not edit what we wrote. And we would send it back immediately.

One word can open a world. One word spoken, one word written, one word held in thought can transform a life.

I do not remember the word, but what I wrote in one of these exchanges was about spreading the ashes of Matt and Bryan on the anniversary of Lydia’s death at Half Moon Bay.

Years later, as I was searching for a beginning of my story, Rachel suggested using the vignette of the finding the ashes of my children left on my hands and seared into my heart. Out of the Ashes: Healing in the Afterloss was born from a word shared, a story shared, a story heard.

Everyone has a story to share. And in the sharing, we heal. We come to common ground that draws us into a unique place of knowing. I feel closer to me when I am drawn closer to you. What we have lost can never be replaced, but what we have left is our story, and each other.

When we find each other, we find ourselves. In the unfolding of life we have the same story uniquely chronicled in our love and loss and it collects in a common knowing on a universal path. We are not alone. When I hear your story I know that story. We are truly not alone.


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