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  • Grief Counselling, Bereavement & Jack Layton

    grief counselling

    The sad early passing of beloved Canadian political leader Jack Layton teaches us much about bereavement and grief counselling as archetypal experience.   Millions felt personally connected to Jack.  His warmth, deep personal conviction and love of Canadians made him a beloved figure on our political landscape.

    We feel deep sadness and personal loss at his sudden decline and passing.  As a nation, we have experienced some of the key characteristics of grief reactions.

    1) Even if Foreseen, Grief is an Incredible Shock

    We saw Jack Layton on TV when he stepped aside in July.  We must have been aware that he did not look like his former self, and was obviously a very sick man.  We really knew he would not turn over the reins of the NDP without an extremely good reason.  Yet we experience deep shock upon his passing.

    This is characteristic when people lose a loved one.  When the reality finally hits, we are absolutely stunned.  It’s incredibly hard to accept that the loved one is actually gone.  We find ourselves saying, “You know, I just keep expecting him/her to come through that door at any moment.”

    2) We’re Outraged by Death

    We feel outrage in the face of death, when someone passes at an age that seems far too young, as with Jack Layton, aged 61.  On a level that I believe is archetypal, we have a sense of what is a complete or full life.  When someone dies before that time, we feel that it is bitterly wrong.  It should somehow have been different.

    3) We Want to Do Something — but We Don’t Know What

    The death of a loved one fills us with a sense of powerlessness, even despair.  We’re overwhelmed with the desire to do something to make it better, to remove the sense of loss.  But there seems so little that concretely can be done. The loved one’s absence is so formidible and so unavoidable.

    4) Finding Meaning in the Life of the Loved One — and Our Own

    With time, we begin to find ongoing value and meaning in the life of the lost loved one.  We realize the ways in which we still carry the loved one within us, and how that brings meaning.  Through recall and ritual, we find ways to keep the person’s memory alive.

    So it will be for us, remembering, celebrating and living out the spirit of Jack Layton, a man who, now forever, is “Le Bon Jack“.

    PHOTO: ©  All rights reserved by thankyougravity
    © 2011 Brian Collinson
    2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)


    1. Theresa


      August 27, 2011 at 9:37 am -

      In the case of Jack Layton, I also feel personal outrage both because his life has been cut short at a time that it was so full of purpose. He had so much left to give and so much joy to experience. He was, to me, an example of someone who had beautifully integrated his values and beliefs into the deep fiber of his life. This full, passionate life has been cut far too short.

      1. Brian C
        September 1, 2011 at 7:00 pm -

        Thank you for your comment, Theresa. I certainly agree that there are real, unavoidable feelings of loss and outrage at the death of someone like Jack Layton. He was a relatively young man, who, not so very long ago, presented us with a very vibrant image of vitality and of passionate commitment to those things that were clearly so important to him. The blow is particularly great when Layton appeared as such a contrast to the general political landscape, which a great many Canadians found easy to view with a great deal of apathy and cynicism. Very, very many of us will undoubtedly miss him. But, after watching his funeral on Saturday, I also think that a great many Canadians from different places on the political spectrum are going to carry Jack forward into their overall approach and aspirations for political life, and in their hopes for a better Canada.

    2. jamenta


      August 29, 2011 at 12:18 am -

      For me early death is a paradox. I have spent a decent amount of time in my life reading literature on death – and many remarkably intelligent authors: such as Frederic Myers, or Carl Jung, or James Hyslop – who dedicated a good part of their lives to studying the nature of consciousness – the psyche and most certainly the question of death itself. All three of these formidable scholars, writers, intellectually powerful men – came to the conclusion that consciousness is not dependent on the brain, and that it does and will transcend the body at death – and continue in some other manner.

      Now here is the paradox: if one truly believes that our life experiences are not just at the whim of whichever way the wind blows – if one really does take to heart the admonishments of Carl Jung that Synchronistic events do take place – and the unconscious is constantly moving you forward toward a deeply meaningful purpose/destiny of your Inner Self – if you accept the acute observations James Hyslop made of paranormal aspects of the psyche, or the masterful categorization and collection of facts by Frederic Myers – then some part of you must seriously conclude that 1) death is not really the end and 2) there is purpose and meaning in death itself – i.e. it is not an accident – and that again – we are not subject to the whims of the wind, there are deeper currents in each of our lives that bring us into human reality and take us out – but the soul remains – and it is all meaningful.

      So again the paradox: am I to then feel anger or sadness etc. when an early death takes place? If one believes that life is neither accidental nor is death – and that consciousness does survive? Perhaps even survives into a better reality than the school like reality we find ourselves in now? Must we feel so shocked – when the wisest of the wise among us – including Carl Jung – have insisted that death is only a transition – that each event in our lives – no matter how trivial – has meaning?

      1. Brian C
        September 1, 2011 at 7:04 pm -

        Thank you for your comments, John. I agree with you that there is a real paradox, and a conflict in what we feel around death. When someone we love dies, we cannot help feeling a terrible sense of wrench and loss — it’s like a part of us is gone. But we also cannot help feeling, on some level, that the loved one has journeyed on, as we will, in our time. This is beautifully captured in a piece of music that was part of Jack Layton’s funeral, Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic”

    3. jamenta


      August 29, 2011 at 12:39 am -

      An interesting interview of James Hyslop whom I mentioned in my previous comment:

    4. jamenta


      September 3, 2011 at 1:12 am -

      Beautiful tune by Morrison. Thanks for sharing it Brian.

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