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Patricia's grief from her son's suicide

(Life 168 - Season 1 Episode 5)

In the last chapter, Patricia had shared with Dwight her inconsolable grief from her son's suicide. Was there any way that Dwight could help her in one conversation?

What belief was causing Patricia's suffering?

Working off the premise that all suffering is caused by beliefs that are not true, I asked Patricia,

"What do you believe about the fact that your son killed himself that is causing you to suffer now?"

After a bit of back and forth to clarify her answer, Patricia said, "My son should not have died."

And when you believe the thought, "My son should not have died," when in fact he did die, what are your thoughts, feelings, and reactions?

"I feel so much loss, like an emptiness that will never go away. I keep asking, 'Why did this have to happen?' and 'How could I have prevented this?' I think again and again, 'I must have done something wrong.' It almost feels as if my life is over."

I replied, "That's understandable.

"Now let's imagine a slightly different Patricia. She's exactly the same as the current Patricia except for one thing. She does not have the thought, she does not have the belief, 'My son should not have died.' How would the thoughts, feelings, and reactions of that Patricia differ from your current ones?"

After a bit of introspection, Patricia said,

"I would still miss him. I would still feel some pain but it would be okay. I might even feel my pain as an expression of my love for him. But I would not be suffering anymore."

I replied, "Take a minute to think more about how that Patricia would be.


"Now let's consider a new possible belief that may or may not be true. This new possible belief is,


'My son should have died.'

"I know this may feel cruel to even consider this belief. I am not suggesting that you should believe this new possible belief. Only that we examine it to see if we can find any reasons or evidence that might indicate that it could be true, okay?

"Let's see if we can come up with three reasons or pieces of evidence to support the possible truth of the belief, 'My son should have died.'"

Hesitating at first, but after a bit of thinking, Patricia answered, 


"I know my son was suffering. He had been suffering for a long time. He tried to keep going and I tried to help him. I guess he reached a point where he didn't see any other way to end his suffering. Now he is no longer suffering. Whether he is or he is not, he is now okay. If I could magically bring him back alive and not know how we could end his suffering soon, it would be cruel to do that. So this is one reason to support the idea that my son should have died."

I concurred, "Okay, that's one good reason to support the new belief 'my son should have died.' Any other reasons or evidence?"

Patricia continued, "Although I or even others might have thought he had better options than to kill himself, nobody else but my son could know for sure that did not choose best for himself."

That also makes sense to me. May I suggest another reason and see if it fits you?

"Sure, go ahead..."

I suggested, "The fact is your son did die. We can know whether or not an assertion is true by comparing it with reality. If we were to say, 'Your son should not have died,' then that would not match reality. That assertion would be denying the fact of reality that he did die. In contrast, if we said, 'Your son should have died,' then that matches reality. We would not be denying what reality is. What do you think?"

"Even though I still want to argue with that a bit, I can see the truth in it."

I continued, "Thank you, Patricia. Take a deep breath. Bring your mind, body, and spirit present to this moment, to now. Think of your son. In one real sense, even though he died, he will never be gone. He is always with you, right? What are your thoughts, feelings, and reactions now?"

Patricia shared with me, "Yes, he will always be with me. Yes, I still miss him. And I don't feel that interminable anguish and suffering I felt before. Thank you so much, Dwight."

What could I do?

I liked Joe and he was a good mechanic for my car.

But he never kept his promise to repair my car by the time he said he would.

In 1988, living in Phoenix, Arizona, I bought a 1972 Oldsmobile

An oldie but goodie. From time to time it needed repairs. Fortunately, my friend Joe was a good part-time mechanic. His skill set was up to repairing an old car like mine.

My mechanic Joe did a good job, but he was always late

Whenever I turned my car over to Joe for repairs, he did an excellent job, even fixing some small things I hadn't noticed. His fees were more than reasonable.

But he was always late, almost always returning my car at least a week later than when he said he would. I could never rely on Joe to return my car when he said it would. 

Between the devil and the deep blue sea

I didn't like my options. Should I try to insist that Joe be more reliable in his word with me? Should I try to find a new mechanic who would likely be more expensive and maybe not do as good a job? Or should I just suck it up and tolerate Joe's unreliability with his promises to me? Why did Joe have to be this way?!

If you were in my shoes, what would you have done?

It seemed all my options were bad options?

The finale coming soon: Life 168 - Season 1 Episode 6

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