Each week, spiritual teacher Deepak Chopra responds to Oprah.com users' questions with enlightening advice to help them live their best lives.
Q: I just turned 63 years old last week. I live alone with two dogs and one cat in sort-of rural Montana. My son and only child died on September 19, 2002, from injuries sustained in a rollover accident. He was 23 years old and my shining star, my best friend, and he had a dream of becoming a flight nurse (pre-hospital care). He worked in the emergency room of the hospital that he died in. His father and I have been divorced since he was 3 years old. We met working as EMTs in 1977. We both (literally) disconnected life support and donated our son Todd's organs and tissues. He helped 77 people when all was said and done about a year later.
I am just beginning to breathe again. I have post-traumatic stress disorder from this, and my spirituality was deeply shaken to the very core. I can't seem to get the calm inside needed to meditate, though I have read several of your books and others. I feel as though my spirit has left me. I am "walking under water," unable to connect to source. My chakras are all closed up and hurting. I am very disconnected from everything and everyone, though most people can't see that part. Yes, I am on medication for depression, but I don't expect a pill to replace my spiritual house/soul.
Can you tell me how to calm the "monkeys in my head" so I can begin to connect with the source? I have been forced into early retirement due to health issues (left hip problems), so I have plenty of time to learn to do this. I spend most of my time reading, and, in the summer, I garden. I live in a very good place, a spiritual place, on the Yellowstone River, and my connection to nature is very strong. I find most of my comfort watching the wildlife on the river, especially in the winter when the eagles are here. I could go on, but I will cut it short now. Thank you, and I hope I will be considered for an answer from you.
— Linda C., Laurel, Montana
Grief is a devastating condition under circumstances like yours, and you have my heartfelt sympathy and wish for your healing. But I am also going to be realistic, which requires some bluntness. You were living through your son, as so often happens with single mothers. He became part of you, and when he died, part of your identity went with him. This happens in close relationships when two people create a single person, each filling the gaps and holes in the other's psyche.
In time, a 23-year-old son would have found a way to separate himself, and although the process would have been difficult, you would retain his love. With the sudden separation of accidental death, you were wrenched apart, and the numbness, confusion, alienation, depression and "walking dead" feelings that you have now are the result of not being able to assemble a whole person out of the fragments left behind.
For you, reading spiritual books, although comforting, haven't lead in the right direction; they have made you more in-dwelling and isolated. I'm glad you have the balm of nature to comfort you, but a big practical project lies ahead of you: putting a self back together without the missing pieces from your son. Here are the major steps in such a project:
Decide you want to be a complete person.
See that your son cannot replace the gaps he once filled.
Judge yourself as worthy to be happy and deserving of a rich future.
Connect with people who want you to be whole and fulfilled.
Ask the most mature and fulfilled people in your life to help and support you.
Find a mentor or therapist who can mirror your progress and setbacks realistically.
Come to terms with the residues of memory, loss, grief and woundedness.
Walk away from the role of victim once and for all.
Learn to honor your grief while giving a greater place to love.
I hope this helps. Write down these 10 steps and seriously consider them. Passively waiting for time to heal you won't work. You must be objective and realistic. I almost want to say that you have to be ruthless in reclaiming your own life. If you can do that, you will be a living memorial to your son instead of a living gravestone—one that he would be proud of.