A Day of Rebirth……. For The Both of Us

The following piece was authored by Patty Furino, a dear and trusted friend and witness to my growth and rebirth in the aftermath of my daughter Jeannine’s death. Patty has also taught me that we continue to evolve by having those people of the highest level of thought in our support network.  As you will discover, Patty walks a sacred path with honor and integrity and she has helped many negotiate challenging transitions in their lives. I first met Patty in July of 2010 and spent a weekend with her in Long Island in November of 2010, and the wisdoms that she shared permanently redefined how I viewed my daughter Jeannine’s life and death. Jeannine truly did bring us together and was very present during that weekend in 2010. I am sure there will be more to come in the future on our shared experience. I also hope that this submission from Patty will be one of many that she will share on this blog. 


I awoke early this morning and felt an urgent call to revisit your essay entitled “A Day of Rebirth.” (http://thegrieftoolbox.com/article/day-rebirth) It led me to revisiting our thoughts from that first weekend together, so I decided to read our journals from the weekend. Looking back, Crow medicine filled my thoughts. The book Medicine Cards, by Native American, Jamie Sams, discussed how Crow Medicine reminds us to Honor our past as our teacher, Honor our present as our creation, and Honor our future as our Inspiration. It is still amazing to me when I look back and realize how Jeannine brought us together on 11/11/10 for a program entitled, “Embracing the Power of Change.” Little did we know how you were going to be doing just that! You have mentioned your weekend on Long Island in different blogs. Every time I read our journals from that weekend, I am reminded of how far you have come on your journey of remembering. Your blog is a beautiful testament to the wisdoms you have received as you remembered and transformed the painful memories. My wish is that each person creates a circle of people that witnesses and supports their own journey of remembering and eventual transformation. This is the way we can become a planet of wiser human beings. We have the ability to walk with an awareness of the lessons we can learn, through all the experiences our life brings. Many of us get caught in the drama of life, and never look for the path that can lead us to peace. You my dear friend, found the rays of sunshine peering through the trees as you walked down the dark path. You are an inspiration. When I was ordained in 1998 as an Interfaith Minister, I vowed to walk the path with honor and integrity. I chose to follow the motto of St. Francis, “ Make me an Instrument of Peace.” I made a commitment to use my connection to the Great Beyond, only in ways that I could be proud of. My goal has always been to inspire a peaceful prospective for people during their challenging times. Your essay is one of my proudest moments. From as far back as I can remember, I have always had conversations with my “wise friends on the other side.” Back in the 1960’s, I saw people who were put in mental institutions and subjected to shock treatments to clear away their imaginary friends. I was determined to find the balance between my connection to Spirit, and the journey in my ‘zip code’. I always trusted that God would bring me to the people who would not fear my gift and would connect with my knowing. I have journeyed through my life always walking in faith. I have always been mindful that this connecting is a gift from God, and should not be used as people’s entertainment. Your journey brings me great joy for it validates my mission on the earth. As you mentioned, spring is a time of renewal and rebirth. I feel it is finally time to come out of the shadows on my journey, and share how working with the Creative Source within each of us, can help anyone transform their perspective and find peace on earth. I thank you for allowing me to share my thoughts on your Bootsy and Angel Blog.

Taking The Bereaved Out of Parent

Through My Own Lens

For several years after my 18 -year- old  daughter Jeannine’s death in March of 2003, I commonly referred to myself as a bereaved parent . Today, as I embark on my 12th year of negotiating my world without Jeannine’s physical presence, I am no longer comfortable referring to myself as a bereaved parent.  According to Robert Kastenbaum author of Death,Society and Human Experience,the actual definition of bereaved or bereavement is: “The status of having lost a family member, friend,colleague,or other significant person due to death.” This definition also brings to mind ,one who is constantly distraught and powerless due to experiencing the death of a child or significant person in their life. I can honestly say that I was in that state of mind in the early phase of my grief , but that doesn’t apply to me now. As we make a choice to look at things differently, so should how we view ourselves. I am no longer a bereaved parent in the sense of the word. Jeannine’s death is a part of my experience as a father, husband, teacher and friend. Her death was truly the most life altering event I have experienced in my life. I now celebrate her presence in different ways, knowing that who she has become and will continue to become ,will always be a part of me. Choosing to look at myself differently  empowers me to be the author of my own life experience, and enables me to look at life through my own unique lens.

We Are Not Our Diagnoses

I am no stranger to the use of terms that attempt to label our experience as human beings. I worked in the human services field for 27 years and diagnostic labels were a big part of that world. Diagnosis, if done correctly, allowed human services professionals to develop accurate treatment interventions for individuals served. Diagnostic labels, if we allow them to, can also contribute to us defining individuals as their diagnosis. Because I am assessed as depressed ,doesn’t mean that is who I am. Any person has individual gifts and strengths that transcend their diagnostic labels. In other words, being depressed or chemically dependent is a part of that person’s experience, it is not the totality of their experience. Being a bereaved parent once defined my entire experience as a human being; it no longer does, nor will I let it .

Freedom to Discover 

Does that mean, that I no longer yearn for the physical presence of my daughter nor choose to acknowledge the impact her absence has had on my life?  Of course not; the yearnings will always be there and the impact of Jeannine’s death on my life always profound. I just choose to conceptualize Jeannine’s death in a way that fits how I now perceive my life experience. Choosing empowerment liberates me to continue to discover teachings as a result of  the challenges presented by Jeannine’s death, without the traditional expectations attached to being bereaved.

We All Have Choices

Of course, we can choose to not grow from our challenges and stay stuck in an endless cycle of pain ,despair and self-pity. We can also choose to not  avail ourselves of  support and resources that will promote transformation of self. After all, we do possess free will. I believe however,that it is crucial for us to take ownership of the consequences we are willing to experience, good or bad. Ownership of our experience can also be a catalyst for change.

It is my hope that all of us who have experienced the death of a child or other catastrophic events can at some point make the choice to embrace a path of transformation,empowerment and continued evolvement .

“It is not how life is treating me, it is how I am treating life.” 

Words of wisdom spoken to me by my deceased  friend and mentor, Donald Kapes