“Mostly it is loss that teaches us about the worth of things” – Arthur Schopenhauer


Losing someone we love is never easy. The following is an excerpt from “Chicken Soup for the Grieving Soul” that addresses this from personal experience. Written by Barb Kerr, it is a very moving and powerful essay following the tragic loss of her nephew.


What Death Has Taught Me


My phone rang at 7:20 am July 23, 2000. As I picked it up, a feeling of foreboding came over me, as usually happens when the phone rings at an odd hour. It was my father…there’s been an accident…it’s Joe…it’s bad…he’s been killed. Joe is my nephew, the son of my sisters. He was killed in a car accident, and so the journey begins.


Joe turned 18 on February 20, 2000. He was looking forward to heading off to university the following year, the first in our family to do so. He was going to take kinesiology, and he was going to be amazing.


For one year, I searched for answers, as many do when they lose someone they love. For one year, I was sad with a pit of emptiness in my stomach. Oh, sometimes on the outside I would appear to be okay, but inside the pit was always there.


Then on one day in May 2001….I realized I was on a journey. What I realized is below:


When you lose someone you love, your soul moves to another “place.” This “place” is shared only by others who have lost someone they love. You know they’re “there” by the look in their eyes when they tell you how sorry they are for your loss. They have traveled the “journey” you are about to travel and know the emptiness you feel. This “place” is where your life seems to stand still for a while. You are still physically there, yet you sense you’re just not “here” right now.


To the observer, your life is carrying on. Inside, however, those who have been “there” know you’re still on a journey for a time. You think it must be time for you to “come back” now, and for short periods of time you do. Then something, some place, some song sends you on the “journey” again.


Those who have been “there” can journey with you for a time if you let them. Company on a journey is sometimes helpful and sometimes you must journey alone.


The road on your journey has been much traveled. There are hills to climb, corners to go around and potholes to get through. Flat tires to repair, and tanks gone empty that need refilling. Most welcomed on the journey are the straight stretches. They allow you to coast easily and build up again to approach the next hill with a bit more ease.


As time goes on, the hills become smaller, and the road on your journey does lead you “home” again. At first for short periods of time, and eventually for much longer times. It is a different “home” now and a different “you” now. You will have traveled far and experience much, and your eyes…your eyes will speak of your journey. You’ll be ready then to guide another, look in their eyes and say, “I am so sorry for your loss.”


“Death” has taught me many things. Things that, if listed, would fill pages time wouldn’t permit to be read. For today, it’s taught me:


  1. To hold onto my children a little longer and a little tighter when we hug.
  2. To hold onto my friends a little longer and a little tighter when we hug.
  3. That I’m not being silly telling my children I love them every day.
  4. To hug my children even when they don’t seem to want to be hugged (like in public!)
  5. To treasure bedtime chats, stories of friends, and sharing inner thoughts.
  6. That fingerprints on the wall are dire to one and treasures to another.
  7. That I’ll not wait to do things, and I’ll not wait to say things.
  8. To be happy today in the journey.
  9. That life is short and meant to be experienced and celebrated every day that we’re here.
  10. That we have a choice in the death of those we love, to honor their death with anger or to honor it with our life and living it to its fullest.
  11. Most importantly, death has taught me to live.