Why I Stepped Back From Grief

The transformation of grief to purpose is my life’s work. Maybe it always has been, but I know for sure that it’s been my life’s work since the 27th of September 2015.

I’m not able to put together the “How I Did It” template on transforming grief to purpose. However, I am able to share my story, and by doing so, I may be able to help others find their own way.

Frequently, people tell me how strong I am, but I don’t feel any more or less strong than I did before Angus passed away. They say that they don’t know how I “do” it… but I’m not even sure what “it” is.

I don’t know how to describe why or how I redefined normal and began moving from grief to purpose, but I know exactly where and when I became mindfully aware of my decision to transform:

  • I remember that it was around eight o’clock on Sunday night…and I was sitting in the floor in the hallway of my house in the dark.
  • I remember the feel of my iPhone and touching the screen to call Camille.
  • I remember the sound of my voice telling her that the coroner had called and that Angus was found on a trail and that he was dead.
  • I remember her screaming.
  • I remember wishing I could give her a hug.

When Camille could speak, all she said was, “He was going to change the world.” At that moment, I mentally stepped back from the edge of a deep, dark abyss where I felt myself delicately balanced. I consciously made the decision to turn and walk away from despair. Less than 24 hours later, The Stardust-Startup Factory was created.

It’s six thirty in the morning. I’m sitting on a swing looking out over Bogue Sound in eastern North Carolina on the 11th of September 2017. Is my son any more or less with me right now than he was almost two years ago… when he was in Colorado, staying with his friends and having a heck of a great time laughing and smiling and learning and sharing? I know he’s still with me. He’s on this swing, and together, we’re experiencing the high energy of this day.

As the mom of a healthy, happy, young man who died at 22 of what some might call a “freak accident,” I think most of my friends believe I’m crazy. Most of them are at least thinking, if not saying, “Wait until she hits the wall and collapses into a heap on the floor. It has to happen; she can’t keep this up.”

But I’m not pretending. There’s no “act” that I’m performing. I am honestly at peace… and I am happy.

When I enter the space of feeling the mortality of this body, when I feel myself going into a place where life feels helpless or hopeless, I mindfully back out, step aside, move away from that space. I know that these moments happen when I let myself forget that there’s a sky full of stars, even though I don’t see them.

My transformation began with awareness of the importance of perception.

We’re having a bit of Hurricane Irma impact here on the Carolina coast this morning with gale force winds and crashing waves. At this moment the sky is full of swirling clouds.  Beyond the clouds, there is a blue sky.  Beyond the blue, there's a sky full of stars, the vastness of space. It’s all still there.  It’s no less there. I just don’t see it!

I remember one time, when Angus was in 2nd or 3rd grade—probably 2nd—when Jim and I were having a bit of a disagreement. We were living in upstate New York, in Oneonta, and, thanks to “lake effect” cloud cover, it’d probably been a week or two since we’d seen the sun. We were all “punchy.” In the midst of a little squabble in the kitchen, Jim looked at me and said, “You make me so mad.” And I commented that I didn’t realize I had that kind of power over him—to make him mad or happy or however I wanted him to be. This didn’t help solve the situation in the kitchen at that moment, but it was a very interesting epiphany for me about responses to stimuli.

We are presented with circumstances every minute of every day. How we respond to those circumstances is what we have power over.

Discovering opportunities, challenges, the different feelings of life without Angus in his physical form have been interesting. I absolutely miss his hugs, and I miss watching him dance and dive and drum and drive away in Yuri the Yaris heading out on some adventure.

I realize that many people I know are grieving Angus’s loss because they can’t imagine how they’d cope with the loss of their own child. Many friends and family members don’t feel comfortable working with Stardust or talking about the loss of Angus because they don’t want to face or can’t face or aren’t ready to face aspects of their own physical mortality or that of others whom they love.  

To reach out to friends and family and to others who want to know more about how I "did it," who want some direction and are motivated to re-channel their grief, I started Stardust's Spiritual Alchemy community.

The Stardust-Startup Factory is providing this forum for sharing and discussion and discovery. We’re not presenting ourselves in any way as spiritual alchemists. Neither The Stardust-Startup Factory nor Camille nor Jim nor I conjure magic that will transform you.

Stardust’s Spiritual Alchemy is an opportunity for you to mindfully transform yourself.

That’s where the power and the magic are.

Sometimes we may not be ready to transform grief to purpose. Grief is place where people find themselves when they are dealing with profound change, profound loss. Stardust’s Spiritual Alchemy group is not here to rescue you from grief.

But when you’re emerging from the fog of grief, we’re here to help you redefine normal.