A Man Named Sam

I want to tell you a story about a man named Sam.

He might be characterized as a “regular Joe.” He worked responsibly his entire life. He came from an impoverished background. From a monetary standpoint, he earned enough to purchase a home, pay his bills and enjoy life. Family took center stage for Sam. Not long after meeting Sam did I realize a good man in my company. He and his wife of over 50 years raised several children. Each has played out his or her respective lives replete with joys and sorrows, successes and failures. Along the continuum, Sam was seen as an emotionally supportive father. When achievements were experienced, Sam was there to support and love. When troubles ensued, Sam, too, was there to love and support.

You might think that I’m typecasting Sam as a perfect man. He’ll be the first to recognize and voice his shortcomings. I might suggest that Sam is mightily tough on himself. When one of his off-spring experienced serious troubles, Sam supported him and in the same breath self-loathed for the troubles. He deemed himself as not being a good parent. His other children have expressed their respective satisfaction with Sam as a good parent throughout the years.

Sam is in the throes of deep sorrow. His wife passed away so suddenly and unexpectedly. They had been enjoying retirement and were making future plans. The measure of Sam’s loss was beyond comprehension. His life has been severely impacted to include obsessive thoughts, restlessness, poor sleep, weight loss and constant crying. What can Sam be offered to aid him in his time of grief as he mourns the loss of the love of his life?

Family and friends have naturally come forward to offer kindness, words of condolences and love. While appreciative of the outpouring of love, the shock and the time following his wife’s passing has left him a ‘shell of a man’ by his own admission. He walks or actually shuffles through daily life. In the course of his grief, he has exhausted his psyche by recalling the myriad events and experiences he shared with his wife. Along with some spoken joys, Sam has become laden with guilt. He has dissected experiences deemed sinful on his part. As one might imagine, Sam didn’t share all of his reported transgressions with his wife. He berates himself and obsesses with his participation in bad judgement and decision-making. Again, how does Sam move through this heavy experience?

In this early stage of grief, I introduced the mind-body-spirit connection concept to Sam. While immersed in the depth of grief, Sam hears that his thoughts and feelings, his full experience is real, with entitlement. Yet I point out that we must assess for its impact on daily functioning. We don’t want Sam to get ill.

Unbeknownst to Sam, he took the lead in finding a road to both allow for a normal grief reaction under the dire circumstances and not to stay stuck, which might lead to illness. While realizing the emotional turmoil reaction, Sam began to explore the events for which he self-loathed. He heard himself reference events where he supposedly sinned. Reality checks allowed Sam to measure the extent of each supposed transgression and realized the normalcy, given 50 years together. He made mistakes, yes. Yet, Sam saw most as small-scale. No ‘felony,’ so to speak, was experienced. He gave an over-abundance of energy on events not worthy of the outpouring. In each one, and in total, he was told by others that his wife probably forgave him. He began to believe the same. However, we then explore Sam’s lack of self-forgiveness.

Lastly, while this is still in process, Sam is exploring the spiritual nature of what this horrific experience might teach him. I point out that the love he has for a grandchild and myth he experiences is a light sent from God. Sam has retained the ability and desire to love, even while grieving. Plenty of lessons lie ahead. Sam is healing at his own pace. His sadness and sorrow runs deep, a normal reaction to his sudden loss. At the same time, Sam is growing as a man and in his roles as father, grandfather, friend and child of God.

Sam’s story os his response to the sudden death of his soulmate can be a lesson to all of us. The cliche “time heals all wounds” may not necessarily apply here; in Sam’s case and those of many others, it is not time that heals our wounds. It is the love we give to ourselves and to others that allows us to find our wholeness once again.

Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.