Inspiration and Intent
Since my 18–year-old daughter Jeannine’s death in 2003, I have embraced many sources of inspiration that have inspired me and changed how I view the world. I have learned that when we state our intent to become inspired, we eventually inspire others by exposing them to the lessons that we have learned.
I have discovered the benefit of Native American Animal Medicine during the last 22 months of my journey. One of the tools that I have consistently used is a book called Medicine Cards by Jamie Sams, a revered Native American teacher. The book comes with a set of Animal Medicine cards. The teachings inherent to each animal are outlined in a corresponding chapter of the book. I don't have a schedule for working with these cards, I simply let intuition, rather than the passage of time, be my guide.
In early grief, it is not uncommon for many to feel disassociated from themselves, surroundings and others around them. We feel untethered and walk in a dreamlike state, detached from everything around us that once had significance in our lives.
After I filed for retirement from the State of New York in April of this year, I felt just as untethered as I had in early grief, following Jeannine's death. It was more stressful than I anticipated saying goodbye to several staff who touched my life and a routine that had been part of my identity for over 27 years.
My Protective Armor/Walking the Ethereal
In June of this year, I got the urge to work with Jamie Sams' Medicine Cards. I picked just one card: The Armadillo. In several previous sessions, I never picked the Armadillo. However, as with every card that I have chosen, the lesson was appropriate to my present reality.
According to Sams, the Armadillo "wears its armor on its back, its medicine a part of its body. Its boundaries of safety are a part of its total being." She goes on to write: "What a gift it is to set your boundaries so that harmful words or intentions just roll off. Your lesson is in setting up what you are willing to experience."(Sams, p 149)
I had a conversation about the Armadillo with a close friend and a valued spiritual mentor during the last 22 months of my journey. I told her about my feelings of disconnectedness from my workplace. I also told her that I was operating strictly from intuition. I have allowed my intuition or spirit to guide me, but have always being able to make connections between my spiritual experience and experience in the physical world. Due to what was going on with me at work, I struggled to maintain that important connection.
My friend told me that "walking the ethereal" without any sense of connection to the workplace was not necessarily a bad thing. She viewed my experience as a way to deal with leaving my job.
I eventually concluded that feeling untethered was the protective armor that helped me focus on the practical matters (i.e. packing my belongings, shredding materials that no longer applied to me) of leaving my job, while insulating me from the sadness of leaving those people who provided me with joy and validation during my career.
Redefining My Experience
Jamie Sams discusses a simple but powerful teaching about how we can best use Armadillo medicine in our daily lives. She suggests making a circle on a sheet of paper and to "see it as a medicine shield.” Sams further instructs us to write down within the circle, all the things that we desire to have, do or experience. She goes on to say that “this sets up boundaries that allow those chosen experiences to be a part of your life” (Sams, P.149).
I did this exercise and took it a step further. Outside the circle, I wrote down those things that I was not willing to experience or let penetrate my medicine shield. Doing this helped me feel less untethered as I got closer to my retirement date (July,11,2012).
We can define what it is that we truly want to experience in any transitions in our life... including our journeys after the death of our children. Armadillo medicine can help us represent our life experiences in ways that are true to who we are. In the journey after loss, what we are willing to experience or not experience may change depending on where we are emotionally, spiritually and psychologically. The road to enlightenment was not meant to be a static process. Enlightenment is about finding our truth while representing our experiences as authentically and genuinely as humanly possible.
Express your lives as a demonstration of your highest beliefs, rather than a denial of them. ~Neale Donald Walsch
David J. Roberts, LMSW, CASAC, became a parent who experienced the death of a child after his daughter Jeannine died of cancer on 3/1/03 at the age of 18. He is a retired addictions professional and is also an adjunct professor in the psychology and psychology-child life departments at Utica College, Utica, New York. Mr. Roberts also developed a topics course on Parental Bereavement issues, and has taught a Death, Dying and Bereavement course for Utica College. He is a volunteer for Hospice and Palliative Care, Inc, in New Hartford, New York and a member of the All Inclusive Care for Children Coalition.