Fierce Grace for Grieving

There have been many grieving parents and loved ones who have commented on my post about Philip Seymour Hoffman. My heart aches for them.

While watching a documentary the other day about the spiritual teacher Ram Dass, approximately 13 minutes in, parents from Ashland, Oregon tell of the loss of their 11 yr. old daughter. The mother then reads a letter they received from their friend Ram Dass.  I was so moved by the letter that I stopped the film and copied the it word for word (errors in punctuation are mine).Image.  I share it here in hopes that his words also touch the hearts of those who are grieving and have shared their experiences with us all.

Here is the letter in its entirety:

From the 2001 documentary, FIERCE GRACE, about the western Hindu teacher Ram Dass (formerly Harvard professor Richard Alpert, PhD).

Steve and Anita,

Rachel finished her brief work on earth and left the stage in a manner that leaves those of us left behind with a cry of agony in our hearts as the fragile threads of faith are dealt with so violently.

Is anyone strong enough to stay conscious through such teachings as you are receiving? Probably very few, and even they would only have a whisper of equanimity and spacious peace midst the screaming trumpets of their rage, grief, horror, and desolation.

I cannot assuage your pain with any words, nor should I, for your pain is Rachel’s legacy to you.  Not that she or I would inflict such pain by choice, but there it is.  And it must burn its purifying way to completion.

You may emerge from this ordeal more dead than alive, for something within you dies when you bear the unbearable. And it is only in that dark night of the soul that you are prepared to see as God sees, and to love as God loves.

Now is the time to let your grief find expression. No false strength. Now is the time to sit quietly and speak to Rachel and thank her for being with you these few years and to encourage her to go on with her work, knowing that you will grow in compassion and wisdom from this experience.

In my heart I know that you and she will meet again and again and recognize the many ways in which you have known each other.  And when you meet, you will in a flash know what now it is not given to you to know, why this had to be the way it was.  Your rational minds cannot understand what has happened.  But your hearts, if you can keep them open to God, with find their own intuitive way.

Rachel came through you to do her work on earth, which included her manner of death. Now her soul is free and the love that you can share with her is invulnerable to the winds of changing time and space. In that deep love include me too.

So much love,

Ram Dass


9 thoughts on “Fierce Grace for Grieving

  1. Thank you. I needed to see this today. Struggling with the loss of a wonderful young couple’s beautiful baby resulting from a winter car accident.

  2. Debbie, this was a beautiful post. I found your blog via the Philip Seymour Hoffman post. I want to thank you for writing that. No citations needed. Everything you said needed to be said and heard. If people were angry, it’s because you challenged them to change the way they think. That makes people angry and defensive. But you don’t need to cite anything on your personal blog. People can take it or leave it. In my case, it was a much needed voice amidst the judgemental and condescending voices. So thank you…

    • Thank you for this, Debbie, it has made all the difference today. These words let me know that my pain is understood on a deep level and also that it has meaning and will provide the path that I’ll need to carry on without my beautiful son. Bless you~

  3. This letter was written by a person with a deep seated faith in God. He is the instrument of communication to reveal to his friends how much our Heavenly Father, creator of the universe and beyond, Loves them and their child through the power of the Holy Spirit, and His only begotten son, Jesus Christ…The tragedy of death is the beginning of life in the Spirit. The pains of birth of a newborn fade into happiness, joy, love for this miracle of perfection…a gift…of God’s love. The newborn had fought hard to stay in the comfort , safety of it’s mother’s womb. Whack! the babe cried..the breath of life..the cord cut…now it is on it’s own…in the safety of the mother’s loving arms…..The sands of time…the moving finger having writ, moves on ….one heartbeat at a time…The pains of birth, now become the pains of death….the cord cut…the body sleeps..the breath of life is free….in a new Spiritual body…The circle of life…connecting mother and babe through the eons of time evermore…the perfect gift of God’s Love…You are my Sunshine…my strength, my courage, my life……Jesus promised he would not leave you comfortless, he would come to you…He always keeps his promise….St. John 14:18… May God carry you and your family in the palm of His hand during this painful time. Amen.

  4. thank you…not many people in our society understand grief..they want to fix you..or they stay away from you.. Just like the disease of alcoholism and addiction…

  5. Debbie
    You clearly are a textbook scholar. Addiction isn’t curable but can be arrested. Talk to people recovering not the teachers and scientists who study brain disorders. True, they may be of help in bettering the life of people with brain disorders but don’t clump everyone into the same category.

    • Dear Kim, Thanks for the read. I am not a textbook scholar by any means. I am family member sandwiched between two generations of people with addiction and other neurological disorders. I have been in and around 12 step communities since the mid-1970’s and am graduate student from the era before anyone could take pictures of the brain in operation. That is to say, I come from the days when all there was to offer someone suffering was some hand-holding during detox and a 12 step program. As you say, addiction can be arrested, but not in enough people to be satisfied with the current modes of intervention and treatment. As life-saving as 12 step programs are, it is unacceptable to me that only 20-30% of addicts who attempt treatment will be able to recover. If this were the recovery rate of cancer patients the world would be up in arms over the the current forms of treatment. Advances in science and technology are offering us information that could help prevent people from ever becoming addicted, and pointing the way to new types of treatment that could increase the numbers of addicts able to achieve and maintain abstinence. Addicts and their families deserve the same support and treatment that other diseases receive, not the shame and blame and failure rates that exist today. Regarding clumping addicts in with other neurological disorders, I do so because it is medically consistent, i.e., addiction is a neurological disorder, or brain disease. Hopefully, advances in treating any neurological disorder will result in progress and recovery for other disorders as well. Blessings to you for your interest in and passion for this subject. Debbie

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