Posts Tagged ‘grief’

A Death in the Family

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

My brother Ben died last week. I miss him a lot and always will. He was a wonderful man, husband, brother, and human being. You can read more about him in the tribute on his Facebook page:

I’m writing about his death for two reasons. The first is because I am grieving and am trying to come to terms with and accept the reality that I will never see him again. And writing about it, my memories, and my brother’s (mostly) wonderful qualities, will help me heal.

The second reason I’m writing about Ben’s death is because I think it may have been preventable. And while nothing will bring him back, I want future possible deaths that can be prevented to be.

Here are a couple of my memories: Ben was five years younger than me, so he had five less years than I’ve had to learn the lessons life gives us. So it seems kind of ironic that I, as someone whose job and career is to give people ideas and suggestions to help them live better lives, would call him for help and advice. But I did, more times than I can count. And the counsel I received was always compassionate and wise.

One more thing I want to share about Ben is that he was a gifted french horn player. While I’ve heard him many times, one time that was especially memorable was last year when my girlfriend and I stopped by to visit on our way home from a trip out of state. We were treated to our own live performance, and I can truthfully say that what came out of Ben’s horn was richer and more heartfelt than anything I have heard from any other french horn player’s horn before or since.

I’m grateful for those and many more memories, but of course I wish Ben hadn’t died. I’ll probably never know for sure, but I think his death could have been prevented. I’ll describe how by sharing my own story.

I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in 1996. When the treatments my doctor gave me didn’t help, I decided to learn as much as I could about my illness and all the standard and alternative treatments people were using to treat it. I made a vow to myself that I was going to do everything I could to get well, and do so for as long as necessary.

While doing my research, I was well aware that on the internet people can say anything – and some do. So I got corroboration before trying anything. I ended up trying many standard and alternative treatments, and even devised one of my own.

In effect, I became the head of my medical team of doctors and other practitioners. And after three years, my Crohn’s went into remission. With the exception of a few relapses (the last one was four years ago), it has stayed in remission without drugs ever since.

Ben didn’t do that. He got the best medical care he could for his atrial fibrillation and his lung disease, and followed his doctors orders religiously for years. His health would get better, but then get worse than it was before, but he continued to follow orders.

He also didn’t give his heart or his lungs – or himself – the kind of compassion I have written about in many of my posts. And he died, much too soon.

Just to be clear, I’m not saying you should disregard what your doctor says. He or she has studied and learned a lot about diagnosing and treating illnesses.

But doctors are human and they make mistakes, and in my experience they often ignore potentially helpful alternative treatments.

So what I am saying is do your own research, and ask questions about the treatments you’re given and also about alternative treatments you think may be helpful.

I don’t know if the holistic approach to treating illnesses and healing the body that I have briefly described here would have prevented my brother’s death. But I have seen far too many positive results for me not to strongly encourage others who are struggling with illnesses to try it themselves.


To learn about other effective ways to heal your pain, I invite you to sign up for my free E-Course: Learn How to Raise Your Energy – and Your Spirit – in Just 21 Days.

Do You Have an Identity Crisis?

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

Many of the people I work with have told me that besides taking away some–or many-of the abilities they had when they were healthy, and besides bringing unpleasant and painful symptoms into their lives, their chronic illness caused them to question who they are.

Before their diagnosis, they saw themselves as competent, active, productive, and engaged partners, spouses, parents, and friends. Then they become ill and lots of things changed. They couldn’t do all the things they formerly could, and they often become dependent on others. Also, they sometimes grieved for the person they no longer were and wondered, sometimes for a long time, who the person was that they became.

If any of what I’ve described also applies to you, the first thing I will say is my mantra for everyone with a chronic illness: give yourself LOTS of compassion – compassion for yourself for any grief you have for the person you no longer are, as well as compassion for all the difficulties that having a chronic illness has brought into your life.

Here’s some information that may surprise you: there is another group of people who often go through identity crises when their lives change. I learned from a prominent chronic pain doctor, who has a revolutionary method for treating certain kinds of chronic pain, that many of his patients resist getting well. They resist because they have gotten used to, and have identified with, being a person with chronic pain. This doctor has found that his patients usually need lots of counseling or therapy in addition to the treatments he gives them.

From the stories that doctor told about his patients, it’s clear to me that people have a hard time, i.e., an identity crisis, when their life circumstances and their roles change. But I’ve learned, both from my own life and from working with my clients, that our true identity goes much deeper than our being healthy or sick, being “productive” or disabled (I put quotes around the word productive because I think it’s a quality that is often overrated), or being self sufficient or dependent on others.

But changes in our lives and circumstances, such as having a chronic illness, give us an opportunity to examine our identity that we otherwise wouldn’t have. For example, we often discover more compassion for others within us than we realized was there. We may discover that the things that are important to us are different from what we thought they were.

I could say a lot more about the identity crisis that many go through when they have a chronic illness, but for now I’ll close by saying that I would love to get your thoughts and experiences about any self-identity struggles and changes you’ve had since you’ve had a chronic illness. If you go to share your self identity thoughts, I will include your comments in later post about this topic.