A Father's Journey Of Love And Purpose After A Traumatic Loss With David Roberts

Widowhood Real Talk with Tina | David Roberts | Father’s Love

 

Discover the profound journey of Dave Roberts, MSW, LMSW, in this heart-wrenching episode as he tells the devastating loss of his daughter, Janine, to cancer at just 18. With a career dedicated to helping others through addiction and grief, Dave shares his deeply personal story, reflecting on Janine’s brief but impactful life and the lessons her struggle taught him. From his professional roles as an adjunct professor and podcast host to his poignant insights into the mosaic of emotions that define the human experience, Dave’s narrative offers a blend of raw emotion and spiritual enlightenment. Join us for an inspiring conversation about finding peace amid unimaginable loss, understanding grief’s diverse expressions, and the enduring bond that transcends life and death. This episode is a tribute to resilience, empathy, and the power of a father’s love in the face of profound sorrow.

I am sharing my experience of loving the same man for 32 years, a mother to two adult children, a retired military officer, a breast cancer survivor, and my connections with others.

Anyone experiencing suicidal thoughts should reach out to a suicide hotline or local emergency number in their country: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/suicide/suicide-prevention-hotlines-resources-worldwide

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A Father’s Journey Of Love And Purpose After A Traumatic Loss With David Roberts

Our guest is Mr. David Roberts, but he goes by Dave. He is an MSW, LMSW. He became a parent who experienced the death of his child when his daughter Jeannine died of cancer on March 1st, 2003, at the age of eighteen. He is a retired addiction professional and adjunct professor in the Psychology, Child and Life Department of Utica University in Utica, New York.

Dave also teaches Psychology classes at Pratt Munson School of Arts of Design. He hosts the Teaching Journey podcast, which can be found on most podcast platforms. Dave has presented workshops, national conferences, Compassionate Friends, and for bereaved parents in the USA. He was also a keynote speaker at the 2011 and 2015 National Gatherings of Bereaved Parents of the USA.

Dave also co-presented a workshop titled Helping Faculty After Traumatic Loss for the Parkland, Florida community in 2018 in the aftermath of the mass shooting for the Stoneman Douglas High School. Dave has contributed articles to Medium, Open to Hope Foundation, Mindfulness and Grief, Thrive Global, and Recovering the Self Journal.

He has also appeared on numerous podcasts as well as Open to Hope Television. He co-authored a book with Reverend Patty Farrell titled When The Psychology Professor Met The Minister, which was published on March 1st, 2021. Your ability and the links to contact Dave are going to be in the show notes and the comments on the YouTube channel. Welcome, Dave, to The Widowhood.

Tina, thank you. It’s a pleasure to be here. I’ve been looking forward to our conversation for some time now.

 

Widowhood Real Talk with Tina | David Roberts | Father’s Love

 

Thank you so much. I’m sorry for the death of your daughter, Jeannine. I know it becomes something you learn to carry, but it’s still something that you are carrying that has shifted the part of your life.

Janine’s Battle

Yes, it has, Tina. Certainly, one of the things that I never envisioned having to do as a parent was bury my child. It was unfathomable to me. It was something I didn’t even consider. It was so far removed from my consciousness that I never considered it. When she got sick and then she got progressively more ill and she began to deteriorate progressively from her cancer.

I was going to be walking a path that I never thought I’d ever be walking. The thing with her cancer is that it was a rare form of cancer called Alveolar Rhabdomyosarcoma and she was diagnosed approximately three weeks after giving birth to her only child and my first grandchild, Brianna. Brianna was born on May 2, 2002. I had gotten my Master’s in Social Work degree. I had that degree conferred upon me on May 19, 2002.

On May 26, 2002, she was officially diagnosed with Alveolar Rhabdomyosarcoma. The diagnosis was confirmed approximately a week later. I think it was June 3, 2002, at the Dana-Farber Research Institute in Boston, which is one of the premier, if not the premier, hospitals and research centers for pediatric sarcomas. In a five-minute consult, they said that she had stage four cancer with bone marrow and lymph node involvement.

There was absolutely no cure for her cancer. The only hope that they had was to put her cancer in permanent remission until they could find a cure. At that moment, Tina, what I heard, and I know my daughter heard, was that in all likelihood, unless there’s a miracle, she’s going to die. In ten months from diagnosis to death, I call her death now a transition from the physical body to the spiritual world. She transitioned ten months after being diagnosed. It was a relatively quick progression. Sarcomas have to be diagnosed early. What had happened is she had injured her right foot in a freak accident during pregnancy. Her foot got progressively more swollen, did not respond to traditional treatments for a swollen foot, and an MRI revealed an undefined eight-centimeter mass in the bottom of her foot.

It was biopsied and it was found to be a malignant tumor. The rest has set me on a path that’s been a mosaic of a lot of different emotions but ultimately ended up with transformation. Learning how to transcend grief, find peace with what had happened, and be grateful for what I have in my life. It’s been a long journey to get there.

Mosaic Of Emotions

You said a lot there. There is so much to go back to unpack. Is the concept of mosaic a term you use often? What does that symbolize for you in this process?

I look at mosaic as a combination of a lot of different emotions, a lot of different states of mind. One of the things that I discovered is that happiness by itself is not the key to success, especially after experiencing tragedy. I would ask certain people, how are you doing today? This is before my loss, and I’d say, “Great, it’s the best day of my life.”

I began to think about it, especially after my loss. I said that nobody can be happy 24/7. That takes too much energy. To me, it takes too much energy. It isn’t realistic because even if you haven’t experienced tragedy, happiness 24 hours a day isn’t realistic. There’s going to be periods of sadness, there’s going to be periods of pensiveness, there’s going to be periods of confusion, there’s going to be periods of anxiety.

It all has something to teach us and it makes us who we are. To deny all of those aspects of our lives is to deny the mosaic that ultimately is a part of who we are. Emotions, good and bad, make up who we are. We can learn from all of them and it’s about being genuine. It’s about genuineness. I tell my students at Utica University that if you’re talking to somebody who’s had a tragedy, don’t ask them how they’re doing today unless you have time for the answer because they may need to talk.

 

 

That sometimes is not going to be pretty, but you have to witness all of that. You have to witness whatever anger they may be experiencing. Sadness and tears are all part of working through that grief to ultimately get to a point of peace. There’s no absolute timeframe for that progression to happen. I always look at the path that I walk as a mosaic comprised of various emotions that make up my genuine self so that when you ask me how I’m doing, you’re going to get a genuine answer at that moment.

I tell my students jokingly and anybody else, “I don’t hang around with totally happy people anymore.” If I asked somebody how they’re doing and said, “Dave, today stinks.” I can sit down and have a conversation with them because I know they’re being genuine and I know that’s where they’re at and I can deal with that.

Thank you. You touched on something that is often discussed in the grieving community. How are you doing now? The question would come, what does one ask? How do they approach it? I know this is from your learned experience. Every person is different from your experience. What would be the alternative for people to do instead of being quite oddly quiet and staring? What was the best way to approach you?

I think out of sincerity, I could tell through the nonverbal language of somebody who’s being sincere. I think, first of all, be sincere with your response. A lot of times, we say things that we think are going to be meaningful and helpful, but depending on where that person is, they’re not going to interpret them that way.

First and foremost, be sincere in terms of what you are going to suggest. I tend to get away from, “How are you doing?” because that’s a loaded question for me. If you ask somebody how they’re doing in general, you can get an answer. Essentially, what I might do is how are you doing today? How are you doing at this moment?

The other thing is if I might say, if I’m thinking, let’s say I might check in with the insight, “Tina, you were in my thoughts today. I wanted to check in.” That’s another way of asking how you’re doing. What that does is it empowers you, or the person who is grieving, to respond to that in a way that reflects how they’re feeling in the moment, as opposed to, “I’m doing fine.”

A lot of times, somebody will ask you how you’re doing, and you’ll say fine because you don’t want to get into how you’re doing. I usually keep those questions realistic in terms of how are you doing this moment or today, or do an email or a quick text or even a phone call. If the person doesn’t pick up, leave a message to say, “John, I was thinking of you today. I wanted to check in.” That’s it. That person empowers that person to answer it in a way that they’re going to see fit at that moment.

MSW, LMSW

Thank you for sharing that. Let’s get back to these alphabets. What is MSM and what is LMSW?

MSW means I got a Master’s in Social Work degree. I had a Bachelor’s degree from Utica College. I got my Bachelor’s degree in 1977 in Psychology. Twenty-five years later, I got my Master’s in Social Work degree, which meant that I worked four years part-time, but if I had gone full-time, it would have been two years to get my graduate degree.

LMSW is a Licensed Master Social Worker, the first level of licensure you can get in New York State with a Master’s in Social Work degree. In the past, I’ve done private practice with the LMSW, but under the supervision of a licensed clinical social worker. I don’t use them all that much except for bios for podcasts or if I’m doing a conference on it, but other than that, I’m Dave.

Dave, I want you to speak to someone who is going to school part-time and they feel it’s not worth it and they’re thinking about quitting.

First of all, I can tell you that going to school part-time and working full-time is challenging. What I would tell somebody looking at that decision, would want to find out, is this something that has been, that you’ve been thinking about for a while, or that something that came up that caused you to go in that direction. First and foremost, I would do with anybody is listen to the story surrounding their decision.

What is going on? First and foremost, establish myself as a listener and say, “Tell me what’s going on.” “What happened?” “How long have you been thinking of quitting?” “Was this a sudden decision or was this something you’ve been thinking about?” “Tell me about your experience that has led you to this point.” First and foremost is establish myself as a listener. Get the full story and then respond. My role is not to talk anybody into doing what I think they should do.

My role is to listen, to offer suggestions, to ask them, “Have you considered a particular course of action?” “Have you considered this alternative?” “Have you considered talking to your advisor?” I would throw out suggestions with the understanding that they are empowered to do whatever they want to do with any type of suggestion. I always tell my students not to put suggestions out as observations because with observations, the person who’s receiving and the receiving end of the observation is three choices, Tina. They can either accept the observation and say, “It’s valid, and it applies to me, and I’ll implement those suggestions.”

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They can choose to say, “Some of it resonates, but other parts of it, I either need to consider or they don’t resonate.” The third option is they can reject it. It’s understanding that we’re here to offer suggestions and guide individuals to look at specific paths, but ultimately, it’s their path to walk. It’s not mine to walk for them or they’re not going to. I don’t want them to walk it the way they think I should walk it.

Memories With Janine

What are some of your favorite memories of your daughter?

How much time have we got?

As much as you want, this is your journey and we get to honor her and celebrate her and her memories.

One of the biggest memories I have is telling the story in my Death, Dying, and Bereavement class that I teach at Utica University and the workshops that I do. I used to have a 1993 Jeep Cherokee. It was one of those, if you remember the old Jeeps in 93.

I’m a Jeep girl. I have a Jeep Wrangler right now. I’ve had a Jeep Cherokee and a Jeep Ford. Yes, I’ve had four different ones.

This Jeep Cherokee that I had, Tina, did not take bumps very well.

It sounds about Jeepish.

My daughter was a passenger in my Jeep. Her indomitable fashion and Jeannine was honest and did not mince any words. She was never disrespectful, but you asked her questions so that she could give you an honest answer. You might not like the answer, but you know it is honest. She walked up to me one day and she said, “Dad, your Jeep stinks.” I said, “Okay.” She said, “I’m going to take you out and we’re going to buy you a deodorizer so your Jeep can smell nice.”

We went to Pep Boys. I think they have a chain of shops throughout the United States. We had a Pep Boys right around the corner from us. I remember this vividly, Tina. This is one of the memories that keeps me strongly connected to my daughter. We went into Pep Boys. It was a summer day. I remember I had a pair of shorts and a shirt on. I had to make sure I qualified that I had a shirt on.

She was standing to the right of me, and the young man who assisted us had sandy brown hair, probably about 5’10”. Jeannine walked up and found this pine deodorizer. It’s a clip-on. You clip onto your heating and air conditioning systems, and you turn them on. It makes your car smell nice. She got the fan. I’ll give you and your readers two guesses on who ended up paying for it.

You?

I paid for it. She needed to get me out of the house.

It was your Jeep. It was your responsibility.

It was my responsibility, but she said she was going to pay for it. I would make her pay for it. I would have done that. Whenever I tell that story, it’s like I’m experiencing it in real-time. I still have the deodorizing fan sitting on my desk. I still have that. I managed to find it six months after she transitioned, that one of the remote nooks and crannies that this house has.

I opened up an old compartment that we used to keep a landline phone in. The fan was sitting right there. I think I was meant to find that. I always tell that story in terms of how I stay connected to my daughters, among many things. There was another time that we were walking in one of the local malls and she saw this Daddy’s Little Girl bracelet. We were walking and she looked at it and she said, “You’re going to buy that for me for Christmas.”

Now, of course, I had to buy it for her for Christmas. She had a smile that would disarm me. She would go to her mother and say, “Mom, can I have some money?” She says, “No.” She responds, “That’s all right. I’ll talk to Dad, and he’ll give it to me.” Of course, I did because she would smile at me and she was daddy’s little girl.

That locket was buried with her. That’s one of the things we wanted to make sure it was buried with her. I have one other memory, if we have time to share that I think. There’s one thing that this will tell you a lot about how she approached her illness. We’re going to go back to Dana Farber in June 2002. After we got the diagnosis and the prognosis, we drove home pretty much in silence.

It was a five-hour drive from Boston to upstate New York, where I lived. I was hitting every bump in the road in my Jeep and she was screaming out in pain, yelling and screaming. I tried to go fast, I tried to go slow, but nothing worked. I may tend to get a little emotional telling this part of the story, but when I got home, she sat on the couch in the living room.

I walked up to her and all of a sudden, I buried my head in her hand. I started crying like a baby. I have never cried that hard since. I cried and I cried. I looked at her and I said, ”Honey, I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to cause you so much pain with my driving.” I looked up and she started to tear up. She looked at me and she said, “Dad, I only yelled because I was in so much pain, but if you can’t sleep, you come and find me and we’ll talk.”

I’m thinking this will tell you how she approached her illness. She said to me, “You know, I’m not going down without a fight.” I said, “I’m not expecting that you would.” I left thinking, here’s my daughter, who, at eighteen years old, was a new mother, embarking on motherhood. All of a sudden, three weeks later, we find out that there’s no likelihood she’s not going to die unless there’s a miracle. She’s comforting me, and I’m a wreck. I drew strength from that.

I figured if she wasn’t going down without a fight, I wasn’t either. Her gumption, the compassion that she showed me amid her terminal illness, and her diagnosis were something that inspired me to at least get through what I needed to get through with her illness. I’ll always remember that. She taught me a lot about the resilience of the human spirit with that one statement and that one interchange that we had. I could go on and on, but those are the three memories that stand out to me right now.

Your daughter is an amazing woman.

Yes, she is. I still talk about her in the presence tense because she’s still a part of who I am and she’s still around, and I know I know she’s around. She’s an amazing young lady and wise beyond her years. We had 300 individuals pay tribute to her at her celebration of life, which means you never truly understand the impact of life. You truly never realized what impact life has on others, but seeing 300 people there, we told me that she had a widespread impact in her short 18 years of life on Earth.

In those 300 people speaking, did you learn something about Jeannine you didn’t know before?

Not that I can think of off the top of my head. Yes. It wasn’t actually at the celebration of life. It was a phone call that I received after her transition. Jeannine was an animal caretaker at a place called Spring Farms. They work with animals that have physical health challenges and are typically in the end stage of their life. She was working with a horse called Poppy Jay that could not walk.

I don’t have it handy, but there’s one picture that I have where Jeannine is on the ground of the barn looking face-to-face with Poppy Jay, maintaining eye level. It was one of the most magnificent pictures that I had ever seen. I didn’t take it, but I think it was somebody there who did it, and it was sent to me afterward.

The woman whose horse was called and I talked with her and she wanted to know how Jeannine was doing and I told her that Jeannine had transitioned. At the time, I told her that she had died because that’s how I conceptualized that at the time. We talked, and she said, “Your daughter was so good to Poppy Jay. She was such a beautiful young lady. She helped prolong his life with the care that she gave him.”

I knew she loved animals. I knew she loved working at spring farms, but I didn’t realize how much impact she had on animals. She had a bond with them that I didn’t, I couldn’t truly understand, that I didn’t truly appreciate until that conversation. Other people came up and told me how great she was, what a good young lady she was, what a good friend she was, and everything about her. These were things that I had already suspected, but the call that I got after her transition was the thing that surprised me the most at that time.

Impact Of Janine’s Transition

Thank you, Dave. How have you changed the way you show up in life or been impacted by Jeannine’s transition?

First of all, I think her death, the profound sadness and grief that I experienced after her death, has transformed into endless compassion that I have for individuals who have transcended, who are dealing with tragedy or trying to transcend tragedy. It also has translated to my concern for the well-being and education of the students that I work with.

My students have a lot of challenges that go beyond trying to negotiate the world of academia and financial aid and finances. They have their challenges with depression, anxiety, and loss. Through my challenges with Jeannine’s death, I’ve learned to take that holistic approach with students as well. They’re not students. What is their primary goal at this point, as far as furthering their career, academically and professionally?

They also have other parts and categories of their lives that I’ve learned to honor, especially when I have a student come in and say, “I had a death in a family.” I’m thinking to myself, what am I going to make them come to class because that’s not going to happen? I was out of work for three months. I told my boss, “You’re going to have to do without me for a while. I’ll work it out.”

I was out for three months trying to provide as much support as I could to my daughter in the early stages. Another thing that I’ve learned, the quality of relationships is more important than the amount of money in my checkbook. I’ve learned that abundance is not measured by material things or by money. It’s through the people you have in your life, the quality of your relationships, those people who can give you a lot of teachable moments and support.

Abundance is not measured just by material things or by money. It's through the people you have in your life and the quality of your relationships. Share on X

I also learned that the world of psychology and spirituality could emerge quite nicely to help individuals expand their thinking to develop critical thinking and transcend challenges. I was very much in the world of science. I rejected spirituality. I rejected anything that I could not see with my full senses. Everything changed about seven years after my daughter transitioned in terms of who I met.

You mentioned earlier about the book when the psychology professor met the minister. I met Reverend Patty Farino seven years after Jeannine transitioned through pure serendipity. I couldn’t make this story up in terms of how we met. Let’s say the work I was doing up until that time was work that I think any parent who experienced the death of a child would be expected to do. I thought I was doing fairly well.

That goes into my question. You’re leaning in and seeing how you’re a podcaster. You know how this goes. It’s a little difficult to decide. My next question was going to be, how did you manage your grief? What was that process for you?

Grief Process

In the beginning, it was my wife Sherry who I needed to credit for this. She found a good bereaved parent support group that was sponsored by a local funeral home. This was about six months after Jeannine transitioned. She said, “Why don’t we go?” Of course, I did the man thing and said, “I’ll go.” I was going to go to support her.

“I’ll man up and I’ll support you.” Five minutes after I got there, I realized that I needed support for myself. That reasoning for me initially going went out the window in about five minutes. One of the things that made me feel like I was alone was that I could have felt alone in a group of people because one of the things that happened to me was that my whole world changed.

My world became terrifying, my world became uncertain and I had to figure out how I was going to negotiate all of that. I didn’t have a clue. The first thing that I think helped me was finding a support group of parents who also had experienced the unthinkable. The first night I went in there, Tina, there had to be 18 other parents.

Immediately, I didn’t feel alone. I felt saddened that we were all brought together but I soon learned through this group that our shared pain was a gateway to hope. We could work through our pain with each other because we could uniquely understand the challenges of losing a child. That was the first thing that helped.

Widowhood Real Talk with Tina | David Roberts | Father’s Love
Father’s Love: Through this group, our shared pain was a gateway to hope. We could work through our pain with each other because we could uniquely understand the challenges of losing a child.

 

The second thing was I began to read memoirs from other bereaved parents, books about grief, and articles about grief. Also, to try to see what parents further along than me and the grief journey were doing. Some parents had talked about doing this for five years. I’m thinking to myself, “I can’t even do this for five minutes, much less five years.”

How did you get to five years? What did you do? What resources did you help that helped you? I asked questions. I got into my teacher and probably scientific inquiry mode and asked questions. How did you do this? Eventually, I began to do some writing. I got an offer to write an article for a magazine. I started doing workshops for the Compassionate Friends.

I started to try to share at least some of the knowledge that I had accumulated up until this point. This was 2009, so this was six years in. I started, for all intents and purposes, re-engaging in life according to the Bereaved Parents Playbook. I was going to support groups. I was working through my brief. I was reading. I was looking for support. I was sharing what I learned. I was trying to re-engage in a life of purpose. That was the first 6 to 7 years but as we’re going to find out later, something was missing. There was a missing ingredient.

I have two other questions before we get to that point of pivot. How have you and your wife grieved? Differently or the same?

This gets into the old gender differences in terms of how men and women grieve. We grieve very differently. My wife was very open with her emotions. She would cry when she needed to cry. Me, I would cry privately. I would try to distract or work through my emotions. I still felt as intensely as she did, but I dealt with it differently.

If I had a nickel for every woman who has come up to me and said, “My boyfriend does not express his feelings,” I’d be a rich guy. I said, “It is because a lot of men don’t have a vocabulary for feelings. We experience them, but most men aren’t as emotive with them as our women would us to be. For me, I was very much in my head.

If you asked me what I was thinking as opposed to what I was feeling initially, I could tell you what I was thinking. I could tell you what I was feeling after I told you what I was thinking because one of the things I always suggest that anybody who wants to be a therapist working with men and emotions is, “Don’t ask them initially how they’re feeling because they may not have the vocabulary for feelings.”

Most men have been taught to suck it up and that feelings are a sign of weakness. You need to be basic, and you need to take care of everybody else. You need to take care of your family. You need to be strong for them. Feelings are something that we have and love and mostly hate relationships with. I suggest individuals ask a guy what they’re thinking.

If I say, “This stinks,” how does that make you feel? “I’m angry, I’m confused, I’m sad.” That’s how you get to that. For my wife and me, it was understanding our unique grieving styles. I could respect how she was feeling. I could respect her tears and she could respect what I was thinking. She knew that she could get to my grief by asking me, “What are you thinking about today?” “What are your thoughts today?” “You look like you’re deep in thought.”

That helped us strengthen our relationship because we understood our unique grieving styles. There isn’t any right or wrong way to grief. It’s basically what’s going to work for us. As long as it’s not getting us arrested and we’re not hurting ourselves or somebody else, it all works. It’s a matter of understanding, respecting, and holding space for it.

The other thing and I said this on other podcasts, and I want to say it here. A lot of times, I’m sure you’ve heard this where a woman starts crying and their husband or boyfriend says, “Stop crying.” Now, you’ve probably heard this before. Is the man trying to disempower a woman from expressing her emotions? A woman’s tears and their family’s tears mean more to men than the tears themselves.

A woman's tears and their family's tears mean more to men than just the tears itself. Share on X

As men, we’ve been conditioned to be the protectors. I can speak from our family, and I can speak from my own experience, Tina, that when I saw my wife cry or my older and younger brother in distress, it was a reminder to me that I couldn’t fix what happened. It was a reminder to me that I failed in my job as a protector. Those tears went to the essence of what I thought my manhood should have been.

Thank you. You led to my next question. How did you see or observe your son in this process of grieving his sister?

My youngest son was there right from the beginning. He was thirteen when Jeannine got sick. Her illness was his introduction to puberty, which is a heck of a way to be introduced to puberty. When my wife or Jeannine’s significant other, and this is the other part of the story, her significant other, Brianna, their cat, moved in with me, Sherry, my two boys, Dan and Matt, and our two cats.

The running joke in the neighborhood was how many 2 and 4-leggers you could get in a lower level in a one-level ranch. We tested that theory. Her significant other stayed with us for four years after Jeannine transitioned. Jeannine had asked him to do that. He was nineteen at the time she got sick. She asked him to do that so that Brianna wouldn’t be uprooted.

She said, “I know we talked about putting her in a certain school system, but stay with my parents until she’s ready.” He did. He kept his promise to her. He kept his promise to us. We still still see her, and not as much as we used to. Now Brianna is 22 years old and she’s on her own, but I’ll never forget that he was a man of his word. I will always remember that. That was the other part of that. It was an interesting situation.

Grief Process

Now tell us the part you want to get to. Bring us up to this moment about the book, the psychologist meeting, and the spiritual. I’m ready for it now.

You are ready for it. Perfect.

You’re biting at the chumps to tell them. I know there were some things between them, and I wanted to make sure we captured them.

That’s why I wanted to check with you first because as a podcast host myself, I always am mindful. Is there someplace you want to go? I’m always respectful of other podcast hosts’ plans for their shows. You know your audience and you have better than I do. Also, you have a system, and I never want to interrupt it.

We’re going to fast forward to August 25th, 2010. I was on a Committee to organize a Grief Conference in the Oneida, New York, area at the Turning Stone Resort Casino. It was called Beyond Words, Creative Approaches to Grief. Reverend Patty Farino had heard about the conference through another colleague and friend who was the chapter leader of one of the Long Island chapters of the Bereaved Parents of the USA.

She got the information and said, “I would like to go.” She thought about it, and she said, “Maybe I can pick up something that is going to be useful to me. At the time, she was the volunteer minister at the Angel of Hope in Long Island. The Angel of Hope is a statue that is erected in honor of children who have transitioned, died, or passed on, depending on how you conceptualize death.

It’s a memorial and a place of remembrance where parents can talk about their children. Patty did a lot of outreach work and did a lot of companionship with parents who had experienced the transition of their children. She figured, “If I went to this grief conference, I might be able to pick up some stuff.”

Picture of this, every registration was online. She picked out her workshops and double-checked to make sure that those were the workshops she wanted. Checked her credit card information and hit submit. The computer screen went blank. She saw the number at the end. If you’re having a problem with registration, call this number. That number happened to be my number.

I was working at the time, but my office was in a remote location where I could have some privacy. I think she called around lunchtime, and we got her registration straightened out. We talked for about 45 minutes. I asked her, “Have you experienced the death of a child?” She said no, but she told me about her work with the Angel of Hope.

She also told me that she had worked with a lot of parents who had experienced the transition of a child. She also told me that two children in particular had touched her heart and that she had fond memories of them. After we shared stories and shared a few tears, she asked me, “Do you believe in science?” I said, “Patty, I’m not out for that stuff. I’m a psychology-based guy. I’m science-based.”

In retrospect, it wasn’t that I didn’t believe in science because some things were happening, some weird stuff at the time that was happening to me about six months or so after Jeannine transitioned. I’d be walking Brianna and her carriage around the block and there’s a butterfly would be following us. I think that’s weird. Butterflies usually don’t do that, but they were followed. It’s like it was flying and walking with us.

Another time, I would hear songs on the radio and I was thinking of her and all of a sudden, a song on the radio that we like came on. I’m thinking, “Science can’t explain this, but I can’t figure out how I can integrate this.” I told Patty, “I think my daughter did send me a double rainbow once.” It was Father’s Day, 2009. I was sitting on my computer at my desk, probably doing some stuff for school.

Sherry calls me. She’s out with her sister Diane on the deck at the back saying, “Dave, come here. I think your daughter sent you a double rainbow.” We hadn’t had any rain. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky. There’s this big double rainbow going across the sky. I said, “That’s pretty cool.” I thought nothing of it. After I got into the conversation with Patty, I said, “When I see you at the conference, I’m going to give you a great big hug.”

I was moderating the last workshop of the day, and sure enough, she was there. I looked at her and said, “Patty, I’m Dave Roberts. I’m here to give you that hug.” I hug her and get this. At the end of the conference, Tina, my fumes are on fumes. I’m tired. She hugged me and said, “I think your daughter sent me a rainbow.”

I said, “That’s nice.” Not even thinking of the conversation that I had had with her two weeks earlier, we talked about a rainbow. She told me the story later. It was Route 17 in New Jersey. They were driving. They had a weekend away from Long Island. She came home early because she wasn’t feeling well and they saw this big double rainbow across Route 17.

There wasn’t any rain or it was a cloudless sky. Her husband Marco, who is as grounded as I am in science and is a graphic designer, couldn’t believe it. He’s thinking that there’s not a cloud in the sky, and it didn’t rain. How did this happen? Patty’s over there taking pictures and a video and, all of a sudden, she hears a voice in her head saying to her, “I need you to talk to my father.”

She told me this long after the rainbow story. Patty said, “I can do that, but who’s your father?” She said, “He was the guy that you talked to about the conference.” This was September 3, 2010. The conference was on September 10, 2010. There was another workshop in Long Island in November 2010 that was being put on by a then-colleague of ours called Embracing the Power of Change, which turned out to be

Very premonition-like.

She said, “If you can see yourself clearly getting down to Long Island, you can stay with me and my husband, and I’ll show you my Long Island.” I thought about it for a couple of weeks and I said, “Yes.” I’m going to jump back to the day after the conference. It’s the day after the conference. I’m taking three very spiritually based presenters up north.

A place called Old Forest so they could see the changing of the leaves because in fall, it’s beautiful in upstate New York. They’re having this intense conversation. Tina, I don’t know if it ever possessed me to do this. I think it was my soul that was crying out before my brain and my heart had a chance to catch up. I looked up at the sky as they were having this conversation and said, “I want to be where they are and all I wanted was to be able to have some increased knowledge of spirituality to get me through the next step.”

Even though I was doing what I thought I needed to do to get through my grief as a grief parent, my soul said that something was missing. I stated my intention to the universe, and intention is to me a very powerful form of prayer. When you state your intention to the universe, the universe is going to try to find some way to help make that happen.

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What happened is I got more than knowledge of spirituality, I got a whole different perspective. This happened about two weeks after I had stated that intention. I called Patty and said that I’d to come down. She ended up picking me up at the airport. My plane got in 45 minutes early and that was all part of the part of, I think, the serendipity of that entire day. We went to the conference, where she had a booth and was overseeing the Angel of Hope.

We came to her house at 9:30 to get some comfortable clothes. At that time, she came out, and my daughter was fully present because the first thing Patty said to me was, “Why don’t you listen to music anymore?” It wasn’t her. It was coming through the spirit of my daughter, why don’t you listen to music anymore? Patty had assumed a very young adult energy. She was sitting cross-legged, and it was like my daughter’s spirit had invaded her body.

She was the conduit for those kinds of messages that entire weekend. I said, “I don’t listen to music anymore because it reminds me of you.” She said, “That’s why you should listen to it because it does remind me of you.” Without getting into further details, we get into a lot of what transpired with that in the book.

That entire weekend was about my daughter coming through with Patty being a conduit, and with the message being that you’re doing a great job grieving me, but there are other categories of your life that you’re missing out on. You’re a father, you’re a husband, you’re a grandfather, and you’ve got two of my brothers that you need to take care of and that you need to be aware of. The message is I’m always going to be here, but you need to embrace the other categories of your life.

From there, Patty and I had marathon conversations for the next ten years about how psychology and spirituality could merge into this joyous union to help individuals transcend challenges, increase our awareness of ourselves and our connection to the world around us, and connect to something greater than ourselves.

The importance of critical thinking in terms of belief expansion is important because Patty always asks, “What do you believe?” What I believe could be different, but it all works. It’s our job to understand it, respect it, see what we can use, and then come together as opposed to respecting the differences, but yet coming together on the similarities.

From there, it changed my whole perspective. I realized that with Patty’s help, I could transform the relationship with my daughter by maintaining continued bonds and connections with her and that she is always going to be a part of me. I have now integrated the best parts of who she is into the best parts of me to redefine my life narrative.

I tell my students that if you see a lot of young energy coming out at age 68, almost 69, it’s probably my daughter. Also, my students keep me young as well. They keep me on my toes, they ask me some great questions, and I have a blast being around them. I look at all of those students as an extension of my family, as extensions of my daughter in a lot of ways.

Patty gave me that entire perspective. Whenever she throws out something, check this out and see how it resonates. I called her back later and said, “Patty, I think this could work with my science-based brain.” What I got was a whole new perspective that allowed me to find peace and accept that I could re-engage in a world where my daughter was not physically present, but always spiritually going to be a part of me.

I still have yearnings, Tina, and I’m always going to have that. I’m still going to miss her. I’m still going to grieve her. Depending on what’s going on in the moment, I look at it as part of the path that I’m going to walk for the rest of my life. Joy, sadness, yearning, they’re all going to coexist in that mosaic that I talked about. The mosaic of the path that I now walk. In a lot of ways now, it’s a beautiful mosaic because I learned from the yin and the yang of everything now.

Thank you for sharing that. For the readers who are struggling with the loss of their child, what would you speak to them?

First of all, we have to wallow in the muck before we can wallow through it. We have to experience every emotion that goes with it. We can’t suppress it. We can’t run away from it. We have to let us envelop us so we can learn a couple of different things. First, we learn that we can survive it and that emotions are temporary.

 

Widowhood Real Talk with Tina | David Roberts | Father’s Love

 

Secondly, that can also be a motivator for us in early grief to reach out for support. I also normalize grief, things like lack of sleep, changes in appetite, what we call brain fog, lack of concentration, all of those. It doesn’t mean you’re going crazy. All of those are normative processes of grief. Understand that the loss of a child or a parent, there isn’t any playbook that could prepare us for that.

There’s nothing that can prepare us for that. You need to begin to learn to walk in a world that’s going to be different. Time is relative. If you take two steps forward and one step backward, you still make progress. Don’t look at the number of years or that you’re expected to work through your grief. Go at your own pace.

As long as you are making progress and moving towards re-engaging in life again, it’s all good. The other thing is to be, show grace to yourself. You did nothing to cause your child’s death. A lot of times parents and I held myself responsible for not having control over a disease that Jeannine had that was uncontrollable.

I said, maybe if I had seen the science sooner. I could have gotten her in sooner if I hadn’t paid so much attention to work and school. I could have seen it sooner. I could have talked to her about going to one more clinical trial. I did say, “Honey, why don’t you try a clinical trial?” She said, “No, I want to be here with my family.” I’ve learned that she taught me and I’ve come to accept that we live on our terms and die on our terms.

That goes for anybody in the life cycle and she did, especially when you talk about somebody with a terminal illness. She was going to live her chapter of the world the way she saw fit, not the way I wanted her to live it. Unselfishly, I had to let her do that, even though I knew it was going to be the worst pain imaginable in my life.

The other thing is to see your grief journey through your own eyes, not through the expectations of how others think you should grieve. There’s no time frame you’re going to hear in six months to a year. “Have you stopped crying yet?” “Aren’t you over it yet?” Those time-limited expectations were based a lot on Kubler Ross’ Stages of Grief, which was designed specifically for terminally ill patients. They have an end-of-life vocabulary in their end-of-life chapter.

Many in Western society said, “This is how we grieve.” Research has proven that we don’t grieve in stages. Grief is a circular journey. It’s like this. It’s like that. It’s like, “Here’s how you grieve.” This is the stage. They all run into each other. Don’t grieve according to anybody else’s expectations. Grieve according to your own. Understand that the one who wins the race is not the fastest; he’s the one who stays on the course consistently.

As long as you’re staying the course consistently, it’s all going to be getting support, asking for help, being around people who can understand you, and understanding that relationships are going to change. People that you thought were going to step up don’t step up. People who aren’t going to step up are usually the ones; people you don’t think are going to step up usually do.

Be grateful, show gratitude for who you have in your life as opposed to who you don’t have in your life, and understand that there are transient angels out there who come into our lives for a moment in time to get us through a specific moment. We may never see them again, but they serve their purpose. They’re also part of that support network as well too.

 

 

Podcasting

Thank you. I want to make a bit of a shift. What was the motive behind you starting a podcast?

I had two very pain-in-the-neck students who would not let me off the hook until I did. They had taken multiple classes with me and they said to me, “Dave, you ought to start?” My students call me Dave. I tell them that I go on that first-name basis with them. I said, “I wasn’t born professor. I wasn’t born with these initials after my name. I was born Dave.”

Besides, we’re going to be talking about a very personal topic, such as death, dying, and bereavement. We could throw formality out the window. Call me Dave. Of course, if they’re not comfortable calling me Dave, they can call me Professor or Mister, but not Sir. I draw the line there. I said, “I haven’t done enough yet to be a sir. Sir is my father.”

They kept on me and the time wasn’t right, I had some other stuff going on. They said, “How are you doing with the podcast?” I looked at them and I said, “You’re not going to let this go, are you?” They shook their head. Finally, I talked to my son, who has his own Buffalo Bills podcast called Buffalo Bread, and I’m putting in a bash plug for him. Of course, you’re in Chicago, so I don’t know how that’s going to sit with the Bears fans in Chicago.

I’m from Chicago. I reside in Virginia.

You’re from Virginia. I don’t know how that’s going to hang out with the Washington Commanders fans or anybody other team that they they root for. Anyway, I talked to him and finally got going. Started the podcast on March 31, 2023. It’s called The Teaching Journeys Podcast and the mantras. We’re all students and teachers. You were on the podcast, and we had a great conversation.

I’ve released it right now. It’s probably over 70 episodes on RSS and 40 on YouTube. I’ve had two of my former students, including the one who pushed me to do the podcast as a guest. I’m glad that they did. They said, “You ought to take what you learned to teach in the classroom. Talk about that. Bring guests in who can speak to loss too or even have skills to help individuals get through their tragedies.”

I featured a lot of different guests and had a lot of fun. I’ve had so many great conversations with you and a lot of different people who have had very transformative journeys and have done some meaningful work helping individuals transcend challenges. That’s a blast every time I get to record a podcast. I’m in it now for the duration, Tina. That’s how that happened.

In terms of, I know we didn’t get to how Patty and I ended up writing a book, but there’s a story of that itself too, whenever you want to get to that as full.

How has podcasting changed your life?

That’s something I haven’t given a lot of thought to in terms of how it’s transformed my life. I think how it may have changed is I continue to be inspired. I don’t know if it’s so much that has changed me so much in my life. One of the things I believe is that we, with the mantra of the podcast, is we’re all students and teachers. Let’s learn from each other.

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Every guest I have on, I learned something different from every guest. It hasn’t taught me so much about transcending tragedy as it talks about how we can learn from anybody at any time, no matter how young or old we are. In every podcast I do, the guest contributors that I have always have something new to teach me. Every podcast I have is a learning experience for me.

I look at it that way. I try to establish a platform where I ask the question, let the person answer the question, not talk over them, and essentially create a space for their story to unfold. This way I can learn from that as well too. To me, the podcast would be more of an extension of my desire to be a learner until I transition to a new dimension, or as I tell my students, “As I begin to dance in another dimension, I’m going to continue to be a learner in this one.”

Now, I’m intrigued to ask this question. If it doesn’t go well, we can edit it out. What did you learn from our conversation when I was on your podcast?

I’ll tell you, I learned a lot in the pre-chat from you. In the pre-chat that we had had, you struck me as being very business-like and very organized, to the point, and I could tell that your military training kicked in. I was kidding. You can edit this. I felt like I was getting a sit rep. Also, what I learned from you was the importance of structure.

I’ve been around a lot of people in the military, and I’ve appreciated the structure that they’ve had. I learned a lot about structure from you. I also learned a lot about how you built a community and how you built a community of support. That’s something that you’re masterful at. One of the things I think you recognize is that I can’t do this by myself. There are other individuals out there that are walking the same path.

Let’s establish a community where we can all form that web of connection, where we’re connected by a single thread. The other thing that I learned is that you don’t miss a trip. One of the things that you’ve started is a peer support group for widowers and men. There’s not a lot out there for widowers. I think there was one group, I think I recall in the past, that was done in North Carolina for widowers.

I’m thinking to myself, the other thing I learned from you is to look beyond the obvious, dream, project, plan, and say, “How can we make this bigger?” “How can we establish our web of support to include other individuals who have experienced the loss of a spouse.” I learned about structure, discipline, and how to effectively build communities from our pre-chat and our podcast.

Thank you. During the podcast, was that as rigid as you thought during the pre-chat, or did that change?

That changed.

You were surprised by that, then.

I was surprised, but I respected that from you. I don’t know if I told you the story, but my work mentor was a clinical social worker and an ex-Navy SEAL commander. He was the best administrator and clinician combined that I’d ever seen in my life. Typically, clinicians who ascend the ranks of the supervision, a lot of times don’t have the prerequisite skills. It’s not any of their fault of their own. It is that they were promoted through merit as a clinician, but there are a lot of skills that require being a leader that is different from being a clinician. When I first met you, I said, “She’s all business and I respected that.”

I respected that. I told you before that I was getting a sit rep. This is what I do. This is how we’re going to do this. I didn’t take offense to that at all. I smiled because it reminded me of my mentor. I learned a lot about discipline and structure, but I also know flexibility within structure and building communities. If you want to add any of that, you can.

No, I’m going to keep it. I wasn’t sure you would say that. I remember anything that I learned from that conversation. It was going to be value-added, but that was a pleasant surprise. I wasn’t fishing, but since you may mention it, I was curious to know. Thank you.

I could tell you the other thing I learned is that I could work with you and for you because you’re consistent. You’re not wishy-washy. That’s the other thing I learned about. You wear your beliefs out on your sleeve. You’re very definitive about what you want. As you know, leaders who wear their beliefs on their sleeves sometimes become a target for others who are intimidated by that.

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Yes, that is certain to that. I am very business-oriented, but at the same time, extremely fun and flexible. However, when we’re doing this, I need to be doing this, and that can wait for another. There is a lot to be said spot on. I wanted to talk about the book you and Patty wrote after we talked about the seven years. I don’t know how we skirted off, but I’m going to weave us back to it. From that moment that you had with her. It changed your life. How did it move into the book?

Book Writing

One of the questions that a lot of people might be curious to ask is, I believe, what was happening with Patty. Tina, I didn’t question it. I got right in line with it. I believe what was happening because I had asked for this. What I got exceeded what I asked for. I said that I wanted to be where they were. Not only did I get some more spiritual knowledge and tutelage from Patty, but I also got a whole different perspective on life, death, and life after death.

It was my assumption that you believed it all because you made that signal when you said you wanted what they wanted, it seemed to me you wanted that veil to be removed so you could see past what your limitations were on what you had believed or assumed up until this point in life, and you wanted that knowledge. That seemed like a box check to me automatically, but thank you for asserting that statement to confirm.

Throughout our conversations, I said, “Patty, we ought to write a book. People need to know what you did for me.” Patty would never see herself as a medium. She does not like to be categorized as a medium. She is a person who walks a sacred path and has a very deep and reverent relationship with spirit. She sees what she does as helping others who walk into her path.

She told me, “Don’t call me a medium. I haven’t, and I wouldn’t.” At that point, she’s a very intuitive person, is connected to the spirit world, and is a conduit for messages that she believes are going to help others find peace. She’s always been a very private person. I mentioned it during the pandemic, and I said, “Patty, we ought to reconsider writing a book.” She finally agreed.

She moved to South Carolina on January 17, 2020. I want to say the pandemic was 2020 when everything shut down. She moved the day that the first case of COVID was diagnosed in Long Island. She got out of there. They moved to South Carolina. Through Google Docs and the internet, we wrote the book together.

This was a spirit-driven book in a lot of ways. She would be spewing out information so fast, I would try to write it down. I said, “Pat, I can’t. I bought a micro reporter and I recorded our sessions and then I would transcribe them and then we would edit them together. We put the book together. It was a self-published book through Amazon.

Her husband, Marco, is a graphic designer. He did the book cover. He did the book layout. He did everything. He did a brilliant job. I call him the best graphic designer on the planet. I got the book. On the cover of the book, you’ll see how he’s got the light from the spirit figure touching the tip of the subtitle. The handwriting on the blackboard, what do you believe? That’s my handwriting. He asked me to do a sample of my handwriting and take a picture of it.

He has a program that takes the writing off of the picture and puts it on the blackboard. These little touches. This is an actual classroom. One of my classrooms that Patty had. When she took a trip down here, she talked to my students. The double rainbow. You’re walking from the door to the classroom, the door right out into the double rainbow and into another dimension. It’s a pretty cool cover.

He did the entire design, back, front, cover, everything. He put the book together on Kindle for me and did everything. This was a family-run operation, because Marco and my family are my brothers and sisters from another mother, and we consider ourselves family. It was truly a family project. The book has gotten some great reviews on Amazon.

We’re grateful that it’s been of help and comfort, and it’s opening up individuals to a different perspective. I’m not expecting everybody to embrace the perspective, but essentially, use some critical thinking and see what parts of that can apply to you. Look at the possibilities that there are a lot of things that occur in life that the physical world can’t explain or that science by itself can’t explain. Yet, we can be touched by it. We can see it as real. We can be transformed by it.

I would agree. You were looking forward to this conversation. Were there topics you wanted to cover that we’ve not reached yet?

No, I trusted that you were going to cover what needed to be covered. You said we’re going to have a conversation. With that, I said, let’s see where the conversation goes. I think we’ve covered a lot of territory in the time that we’ve had. I’ll go anywhere else you want to take me to.

I know we’ve spoken before, but I try to give people the opportunity to see if they have any questions about me.

No, I think you’ve answered all the questions, I think, with the podcast that you did with me. Also, I think we’re good based on what we talked about and what I learned from the podcast from you. Maybe the only other question I guess I would ask, if you don’t mind, is where do you see your mission going at this point? How do you see it expanding for yourself? What can I do to have my followers align with that?

Moving Forward

Thank you, that’s a good question. What I would see in the process of what Widowhood Real Talk with Tina is doing as far as this nonprofit, my next goal is to start conducting Grief Garden ceremonies. The goal is by the summer of 2026 to have our first Grief Garden ceremony. There is an under-perverse area here in Virginia that has a mean income of about $55,000 to $35,000. Somebody asked, “Why have it there?”

To me, from what I’ve been able to gather, when you have an income of that level, when you experience death, you don’t have the opportunity to take off work for 3 to 6 months and fill your fillings. You are going right back to work while dealing with one of the most mentally compromising experiences of your life. You may struggle with the ability to connect with mental health professionals. Along with the Grief Garden, we also want to start conducting Grief cafes and what those look like. I’m not sure if you’ve heard of that term.

Grief cafes, Death cafes, and Death dinners.

We’ve already partnered with an area that will allow us to have a meeting room to do that and bring mental health professionals in in a very relaxed environment. Is it a whole therapy scenario? No, but it’s a soft start for someone who may not be open to working with a mental health professional.

That is our goal for 2026-2027. The next goal would be to start a scholarship fund in my husband’s name. When someone loses a loved one, it sometimes impacts the family economically. For children to be able to go to college, to know that there’s a college fund specifically dealing with parents that are trying to send them, or maybe one of the partners needs to go back to school because their life has been dramatically changed trying to now run this life on one income that was built on two.

Your mortgage payment doesn’t go away when your spouse dies. There are a lot of things. You have these two cars, you have this life that has been developed, and you may transition to something smaller that requires you to go back to work if you were a stay-at-home mom or try to reinvent the college fund but as far as something immediate to do.

From August 4 to 10, 2024, we are having an event called Walk for Love. What that is, we ask people to walk one mile a day because when you are grieving, I’m sure you can relate to this. You isolate yourself and become withdrawn, and being able to walk one mile can help people with their health. Oftentimes, when you are grieving, your health is impacted.

 

Widowhood Real Talk with Tina | David Roberts | Father’s Love

 

Walking one mile a day and getting some Vitamin D. We ask people to put up a hashtag called Walk for Love. It’s also a fundraiser because we are a nonprofit. People will purchase the merch. We have different shirts. Some people raise money based on the miles they walk and contribute to that. People put up the #walkforlove, and then they’re honoring their loved ones at the same time as they’re working on their health and well-being.

You’re right, too, particularly, because physical health can tend to be compromised. Especially in early grief, we’re so tired and so fatigued, that the last thing we want to do is move. Exactly what we need to do is move, even if it’s for a few minutes at a time. I’ll be happy to share that on social media with everybody else. If you post it on LinkedIn, I’ll repost it and I’ll help get the word out.

Maybe your group can start its team and you can be one of the team members at the foundation event.

I can see about that as well, too, because I facilitate a grief group once a month. I’ll see if that’s something they’d be interested in doing.

Certainly, some of the participation is walking the mile every day and posting where you walk the picture, #walkforlove, #WRTWT, that right there because other people will know they are not alone. Other people are going through this journey with them. It costs you nothing but to benefit your health by walking one mile and posting the hashtag.

I think also trying to expand your support services with the Grief Garden and the Death cafes and I think is important. I worked in the human service field in 1986. There was always a resource issue. More individuals needed mental health and addiction treatment than there were mental health and addiction providers. We’re still running into that today.

I hear stories from individuals that there’s a month waiting list to get into some place. If you’ve got somebody who’s crushed, anxious, and suicidal, they can’t wait a month. They’re looking at primarily crisis services and it’s something that there needs to be more resources. I think that’s why when you have good support networks and there are a lot of individuals, depending on their past experiences, don’t trust mental health professionals.

Depending on history, they may trust more individuals in their church community or support group than they would in mental health providers. I think the more support that we can have to complement existing mental health services, I think is more the better. I’ll be happy to get the word out on anything you have going on with that.

Thank you. I appreciate you wanting to have this conversation with me. Thank you for allowing us to honor Jeannine’s memory and to keep that alive. I will allow you to wrap up this conversation, close it out, and speak to our readers.

Tina, thank you for having me on this episode. It was a great experience. I enjoyed our conversation. Thank you for allowing me to talk about my journey, what I’ve learned, how I’ve transformed grief, and, in particular, Jeannine. There are a couple of things and I’ve had Neil Peart, the late great drummer from Rush in my head all day.

Neil Peart, to me, is the best drummer, lyricist, and writer on the planet. He had his own set of tragedies. His common-law wife and his daughter transitioned within ten months of each other in 1997 and 1998. About a year after his daughter transitioned, he took a 55,000-mile road trip to find himself in the United States, Mexico, and Canada. He took a hiatus from his band, resurfaced four years later, and wrote a book about his travels called Ghost Rider, Travels on the Healing Road. There are a couple of quotes from that book that resonated with me.

The first is about forgiveness because a lot of times, one of the things we struggle with is forgiving ourselves, forgiving others after tragedy. One of the things that he said, and I think I’m going to get this quote almost right, was, “There would be no life for me, or no peace for me if I didn’t learn to forgive life for what it had done for me, forgive others for being alive, and eventually forgive myself for being alive.”

That resonated with me because I struggled with all of that. To segue for that, show grace to yourself, and forgive yourself for whatever you think you might have done, didn’t, or didn’t see. We loved our transition loved ones, we did everything we did out of love and because of that, there’s nothing we need to forgive ourselves for.

Forgive yourself if you need to because you do matter and the world is a better place with you in it than out of it. Beg for forgiveness. The other thing we talked about was support. This is another quote from his book, and I think from one of the songs that he wrote, “We are islands to each other. Building hopeful bridges on the troubled sea.”

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We can all be islands to each other in grief. We may be islands that are separate, but we can come together to help each other work through our pain to help us transform our grief and help us re-engage in life again. We can’t do it by ourselves and don’t think we have to. Finally, as I mentioned earlier, show grace to yourself. You do matter. That’s all I got for now.

Thank you so much for being here, Dave. Thank you, Widowhood, for being here with us.

Thank you, Tina. Thank you, Widowhood, for being with me as well and for holding a space for my story. It’s much appreciated.

 

Important Links

 

About David Roberts

Widowhood Real Talk with Tina | David Roberts | Father’s LoveDavid J. Roberts, MSW, LMSW, became a parent who experienced the death of a child, when his daughter Jeannine died of cancer on March 1, 2003 at the age of 18. He is a retired addiction professional and an adjunct professor in the psychology child life department at Utica University in Utica, New York. Dave also teaches psychology classes at Pratt Munson School of Art and Design. He is the host of The Teaching Journeys Podcast, which can be found on most podcast platforms.
 
Dave has presented workshops at national conferences of The Compassionate Friends as well as for the Bereaved Parents of the USA. He was also a keynote speaker at the 2011 and 2015 national gatherings of the Bereaved Parents of the USA. Dave also co-presented a workshop titled “Helping Faculty After Traumatic Loss” for the Parkland, Florida community in May of 2018, in the aftermath of the mass shootings at Stoneman Douglas High School.
 
Roberts has been a past HuffPost contributor and has contributed articles to Medium, Open to Hope Foundation, Mindfulness and Grief, Thrive Global, and the Recovering the Self Journal. He has also appeared on numerous podcasts, as well as Open to Hope Television. He co-authored a book with Reverend Patty Furino titled, When The Psychology Professor Met The Minister, which was published on March 1, 2021.

Thank you for viewing this post. I am not a licensed therapist or professional life coach.

I am sharing my experience of loving the same man for 32 years, a mother to two adult children, a retired military officer, a breast cancer survivor, and my connections with others.

Anyone experiencing suicidal thoughts should reach out to a suicide hotline or local emergency number in their country https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/suicide/suicide-prevention-hotlines-resources-worldwide