Mining for Joy

Tick tock. Tick tock. The hands on the clock twitch, reminding me of time, passing time, fleeting time. It’s been five months since my last post. It wasn’t a conscious choice. The days stretched into weeks, weeks into months. So I thought I’d let my readers know what has reeled me in and sucked me under. 20131225142344-2Seven months after my brother passed, I woke up in the early morning, the sky still drenched in ink, whispering, Mining for Joy in the Deep River of Grief. It’s meaning illusive, living somewhere in the future. Months later, I’d awaken again at that same thinly veiled hour, repeating, Mining for Joy in the Deep River of Grief. A title. A book title. A book title about sibling loss.

A week after I had this flash of inspiration, it was my turn to submit a piece of work to my writing group, but I had nothing but a title and a loose idea about this book. As a fiction writer, I sat down and wrote an introduction about people I interviewed, who at the time only existed in my imagination. When I sent the intro to my writing group and arrived for my critique, they asked me, “So how did you get all these people for the interview?”

I laughed and said, “I haven’t interviewed anyone. I don’t even have anyone to interview. I just made it up to give you an idea of where I’d like to go with this project.”

“Where are you going to find these people?” They asked.

Answer: I. Have. No. Idea. I left the writing group, thinking, How am I going to do this? On my drive home, I thought about what I’ve always believed: Bubbles of magic float around us all the time, invisible yet there, waiting for us to reach out and pop them. Just waiting to sprinkle our lives with whatever it is that we need, what we’ve asked for as long as our intentions are clear, and we understand the motiving and driving force behind them.

bubble magic again MGD©

Yes, I understand that clarity is key to calling into our lives what we hope for, wish for, strive for. If we want to manifest the grandest vision of our dreams, we have to remove the white noise we send out into the universe in order to create a clean, clear, crisp line of communication. This was a problem for me, because the only piece of information I had was nothing more than a desire, a soul-need to write a book about sibling loss in the hopes of tossing a lifeline to those who were surviving the loss of their sibling. I imagined the improbability of rounding up at least 25 people who would be eager and willing to entrust their painfully intimate, raw, and true stories with a stranger who claimed to be a writer, but had ZERO published books. Crazy, stupid idea. I took these inspiring thoughts to bed with me that night, deciding the project was too big, too hard, and too overwhelming.

In the morning, as most mornings, I talked to my brother, always feeling his spirit around me since he passed two years ago on February 14th.

RockyI heard, call Mini, my brother’s college friend, who had become my friend as a result of Rocky’s death. I punched her number into my phone and shared my vision for the book with her. The bubbles began to pop. She knew 7 or 8 people who had lost a sibling. “I’ll reach out to all of them and ask them if they’ll do it,” she said. I felt a shiver of excitement ripple up the fragile spine of grief. I sat with myself in the silence, waiting for answers to these questions: What if interviewing people will reawaken, reignite that tragic moment when their lives blew apart? What if I cause more harm than good?

My questions were answered forty-eight hours later when I had 17 people who not only agreed to be interviewed, but were grateful to have the opportunity to talk about their siblings. Two weeks later, I had a total of 25, and emails flooded my inbox of people who knew people who had lost a sibling. I now had a wait list.

Throughout the past seven months, I interviewed people from all over the world. The interviews ran anywhere from 1.5 to 3 hours. When the bubbles pop, what sprinkles into our lives often becomes something other than what we anticipated, and we’re given something far more than what we believed we wanted, what we thought we needed. I thought I’d facilitate these interviews, transcribe them, and use excerpts in my book to offer that lifeline of hope to others, but they are the ones who offered it to me.

love-linesAs I listened to tragic story after tragic story, I’d weep with this stranger on the other end of the line. When their voice cracked, I felt my own break. With each call, I knew I was standing on Holy Ground. I had not anticipated how honored I’d feel to bear witness to their pain, the joy they’ve allowed back into their lives, and feel the love they had and have for the brothers and sisters they lost to murder, suicide, cancer, overdoses and accidents. I listened with a whole heart and whole-heartedly as they shared their own sacred thousand-mile swim through their agony and sorrow.

Interview excerpts of the moment they learned their sibling had died:

Yvon: Because we had such a good conversation and laughed back and forth and got quick responses, all of my worries were gone. I was very much relieved that he (brother) wasn’t in a very bad place or so I thought. I was relieved and I said, “We’ll hang out soon. I said, “Just one more hug and I’m off to do the dishes.” He said, “Luv ya” and I said, “Back atcha.” That night at 4am, I was woken up by Hans (husband), who said, “Matt had jumped in front of a train.” (32 year old brother died by suicide)

Emily: My phone rang and I saw that it was my brother and I thought, “Oh, he’s so sweet. He’s calling to wish me a Happy Mother’s Day” and I could tell he’d been crying and he said, “Sit down, I have some really awful news.” I just said, “No , no , no,” because I knew what he was going to tell me, because I knew there was nothing that could possibly break our hearts more than losing our older brother. And he told me and I just kept saying, “No, no, no.” (56 year old brother died of a heart attack on a 13 mile run)

 Kim: She (sister) was packing boxes so he (husband) knew there wasn’t a chance and he begged her and pleaded and promised to change. It didn’t matter, she was still going to leave that’s when he shot her 3 times in the head. (Sister was murdered by her husband. She was 50 years old)

 Julie: I was 13 years old, a freshman in high school when Keith was diagnosed with cancer. I was in a fog. I don’t think I really understood what was happening. He was 26 years old and was told he had advanced testicular cancer. (30 year old brother died from testicular cancer)

I carry their stories around with me, knowing regardless of how challenging this project becomes, or how frightened I am that I won’t be able to pull it off, this book is no longer about me and my journey; it’s about us. It belongs to each sibling, the living and dead, who have a message of heartache, love, courage and hope to pass on to others.

A woman I interviewed from Israel who lost her brother in a bombing, said, “I don’t like to talk about my brother and what happened. I’m doing it because if you’re brave enough to write this book, then I have to be brave enough to tell you my story.”

Brave? No. This is not a work of bravery; it’s necessary. The brave ones are those I interviewed who dove boldly into the gaping hole of their loss, and kissed the bottom of that black river of grief and emerged a different and stronger version of their former selves.


Note to my readers: Always thank you for hanging with me even when I don’t post for months on end. I do plan on starting a podcast on Grief and Loss and will let you know when that goes live so you can pass it on to people you know who may benefit from a little dose of hope when they are deep in their over river of grief. Blessings, light and love to each and every one of you.


24 thoughts on “Mining for Joy

  1. Time is one of our biggest illusions. Love never fades; it is immutable. Live in Love, for that is what we all are. We are always at choice to choose to Be Love in every Here, Now moment.

    Peace, Love, Laughter and Joy always, all ways.

    1. OMG! How wonderful to see/hear you!! I hope you are doing wonderfully!! Yes, I do know time is an illusion:-) George, have you read Michael Newton’s books Journey of Souls and Destiny of Souls? They are fantastic!! Sending you so much love and thank you for taking the time to comment!! xoxoxox

      1. 😃 L-o-n-g time, Susan!! Am I doing wonderfully?? Even better!! Life is full and magically great!!! 👍🏻 Busy with Shira’s web site (I am now web master – omg!!) and learning and growing more and more each moment.

        I am not familiar with Michael Newton’s writings – something to add to my list (which grows longer by the minute!!!) 😋

        As I “heard” a week or three back – Just As You Are – I Love You. Be well, Angel. Happy Days!! oxoxoxo

      2. This is such wonderful news!! Please put Newton’s books at the top of your list. I love you, too and thank you so much for stopping by!! xoxoxox

  2. The catharsis of unburdening hearts as people tell you their stories leaves room for light and love- such a gift. How wonderful that you bear witness to them, dear Susan.
    Two minutes before I read this blog, my hairdresser was telling me of her recent stay at the RC in Bali. Little bubbles, indeed. Love, light and peace. A

  3. While reading this, I was reminded of a time, long ago, when I would hum the theme song to “Lassie” to fall asleep after the death of Shelby. Shelby was the five month old doll and my sister until she died from IDS. “Lassie” was the T.V. show I watched as a child and it was the only comfort I can recall to help me fall asleep after her tragic passing. There was so much grief around me and I had no way of expressing what that loss meant to me at age three.
    I thought of you and what you must do to help you fall asleep at night to help deal with the pain from your loss…do you hum a theme song to a show or movie? Do you cry? I am so sorry it hurts so much. When you do finish this book and you will. You will have given the world a gift of writing that comes from the heart: your heart and the from the hearts of many others.

    1. Thank you Karen. I, too, am sorry that your three-year-old self had no way to process the death of your sister. There is a song that came to me that I know was my brother. It was “Three Little Birds.” You know the song, “Don’t worry about a thing, every little thing is gonna be okay.” All of a sudden it will just pop into my head and I know it’s true and I know it’s my brother. Love you!

  4. Susan, my heart is breaking and tears flowing over the bravery and courage of all of these folks who tell their stories.
    I hope it helps you continue on your road to peace. xx. Sharon Collin

    1. Sharon, I too am in awe of their bravery. It’s been such an awe-inspiring journey and I’m just so blown away that they so lovingly and courageously shared their stories with me. Thank you for you continued support and for reading. Sending you much love. And yes, they’ve helped me in ways and I still can’t quite articulate. xo

  5. To me you are the bravest one of all for being able to hold the space for all of these stories, all of these journeys. I am in awe of you for being able to dive into the river of grief and immerse yourself so fully, when it’s all I can do to just wade through it step by step. When grief hits it can be so deeply uncomfortable that I want to get away from it, I fidget around trying to find my way back to ease, back to joy. The fact that you can immerse yourself in it in the way that you describe here is a testament to your incredible strength and courage.

    I am so deeply grateful to you for allowing Marissa and me to be a part of this book. This book that in my mind is already so tangible that I can touch it, hold it in my mind. Turning each page carefully, reverently, aware of the sacredness of its content.

    Thank you for the lifeline that you have already been for me and that I know you will be to countless more. Love you and loved reading your words again.

    1. Yvon, this ride we are on together since we met is one of both beauty and a little bit (sometimes a lot) of fear. You have inspired me in countless ways. There’s been no wading for you in this lifetime. You’ve overcome more in your young life than many ever will, which is why your blog, your stories are so critical. You will give many many many souls hope. You will give them inspiration to embrace their lives like they never have before. I know this. I am the grateful one. Thank you for being in my life, for believing in me and for sharing your journey with me. I love you. xo

      1. Dear Susan. Your words moved me to my very core. And I am in awe of way you follow your heart with the journey you are on. I know how sharing your story can help you heal, but I can’t imagine what it is like to open yourself up to the stories of so many other people so close to your own pain. I admire your courage in doing this.

        Thank you for being such a wonderful friend to my lovely wife Yvon. From what I have read and heard about you, there is no doubt in my mind that you will succeed in your project and I wish you all the strength and confidence you need.

        Hans Stokkink

      2. Hans,
        I can’t tell you how much your comment has touched me. Thank you for taking the time to read it, to respond to it and for believing I can do this, because I can tell you there are many days I have my doubts! It has been such a deep honor and blessing to have Yvon in my life. I cherish her and our friendship. Thank you for being such a supportive and wonderful husband to her. I know how deeply she loves you. Love, light and blessings to you. Sending you much gratitude!

  6. Oh, but you are brave! So brave in accepting this call of your subconscious mind. It knew you needed to write this book, to help yourself and others. I’m so happy for you, so proud of you – that you’ve taken utter heartbreak and turned it into something – a community, ultimately – that will help heal and bring light to people who have experienced unimaginable darkness and loss.

    You are SO brave and amazing for this work of your soul. And that podcast is going to be a fantastic healing extension of the book. Your whole community will expand and find courage and love and a way to move forward together. So much love for you, Susan. Thank you for being so freakin’ awesome. xoxo

    1. Kelly,
      You are one the most inspiring and supportive people I know. Thank you for believing in me. You are such a talented writer and use your work to inspire others to DARE Greatly! I, too, am so excited for you and this journey you’re on and the pathway you’ve created for all of us to jump on board and live a grander version of ourselves. I just ADORE you and wish the BEST BEST things for you. I’m sending you so much love back and the deepest blessings. xoxox

  7. ~~Dear, Susan,

    You have been an angel in my life, in so many lives.

    You are a bright star in this dark world.

    I look forward to read your book, my darling.

    Such a wonderful gift for the world.

    PS. The photo of your brother is PRICELESS & Beautiful. xxxx

    1. And Kim,
      You know you’ve been an angel in mine. I often think back to the first time you reached out and I swear it saved my life when I thought I was drowning in grief. I will never be able to adequately express my depth of gratitude to and for you. Love you!! And yes, that is one of my favorite pictures of him, xoxox

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