Miracles News

July-September, 2020

Learning True Empathy

by Rev. Larry Glenz, Ordained Ministerial Counselor

“To empathize does not mean to join in suffering, for that is what you must refuse to understand.” (T-16.I.1:1)

I received an email this week from a man who lost his son to an accidental opioid overdose only a few weeks ago. The dad lives on the north shore of Long Island in Manhasset and I live on the south shore in Long Beach.

Someone had given him a copy of my book, Forgiving Kevin. His son’s name was also Kevin — Kevin Jr. The father is Kevin Sr. He said he is struggling with the tragic loss of his 17-year old. The boy was to graduate high school the next month.

It has been over ten years since my Kevin passed from a similar overdose. The dad was reaching out and I felt the Holy Spirit was about to bring us together. I have spoken with many parents who have lost their child this way. They most often appear lost, broken, and burdened with a feeling of guilt.

Holy Spirit has given me the strength to heal from such a tragedy. I believe my own extended family — Kevin’s family — is following me in this healing. It is not like we can just get over something like this. But we can embrace the love we all feel for him. It has slowly brought us closer together. We are kinder and gentler. And we can each feel Kevin’s presence in our own way.

I would like to be able to help others who suffer. But there is much I need to remember about helping others in such a difficult situation. I am reminded of how the Holy Spirit sees empathy. I was guided to read Chapter 16, Section I, of A Course in Miracles entitled, True Empathy.

“The Holy Spirit does not join in pain, understanding that healing pain is not accomplished by delusional attempts to enter into it, and lighten it by sharing the delusion.” (T-16.I.1:7)

“You do not know what empathizing means. Yet of this you may be sure; if you will merely sit quietly by and let the Holy Spirit relate through you, you will empathize with strength, and will gain in strength and not weakness.” (T-16.I.2:6-7)

I find that each family grieves differently. I meet most of the grieving parents for the first time, knowing little or nothing about them. To believe that I know what to say to them would be self-deception on a massive scale.

“You do not know what healing is. Step gently aside and let healing be done for you.” (T-16.I.3:3,7)

I have no formal training as a grief counselor. I am an ordained ministerial counselor for Pathways of Light. I have a similar horrific experience of losing a son to opioids after repetitive relapses. That alone does not give me the answers. I must not think that I know how to help.

“… to recognize and accept the fact that you do not know is to recognize and accept the fact that He does know.” (T-16.I.4:4)

I met with the dad yesterday. He came down to Long Beach and we walked the boardwalk together. Since he has read my book, he knew a lot more about me than I do of him. I was prepared to just listen but he wanted me to talk about my experience with the tragedy.

I described the frustration of not being able to save my son’s life throughout the seven long years of his addiction. I explained how I had prayed daily for his recovery. I spoke of the disheartening relapses and how I sometimes lost hope. I told the dad about the night of his fatal overdose and the following week of the wakes and funeral.

He then felt comfortable about telling me about the horrible incidents that had preceded his son’s demise. He was choked with emotion. The wounds were so very fresh. He told me how my book had helped him in some way by seeing how similar our situations were.

We have plans to see each other again next week. I am grateful that Holy Spirit is using the story of my boy Kevin to help others. I am reminded not to think I know what to say or do in these circumstances. I am not the healer.

I can keep the spirit of my son with me during our talks. I can feel his arm around me during these sessions. I know that I continue to heal as Holy Spirit uses me to help others. And I am grateful for it all.

Rev. Larry Glenz, O.M.C., is a Pathways of Light minister living in Long Beach, New York. Email: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

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