A Journey of Self-Discovery After Loss: Why We Are All Analog Kids


Wallowing Through The Muck


The boy lies in the grass with one blade

Stuck between his teeth

A vague sensation quickens

In his young and restless heart

And a bright and nameless vision

Has him longing to depart


Lyrics by Neil Peart

-From the song, The Analog Kid by Rush


The pain of early grief after the death of our children makes children of us all. We have to learn how to walk again in a world that has now become changed due to catastrophic loss; a loss that defies the laws of the universe. The values and beliefs that made up our world prior to the death of our children have now been stripped bare. To coin a phrase from John Locke, our minds have become a tabula rasa, or a blank slate that longs to have new information imprinted so that we can learn to function in a world that has become uncertain and in many ways foreign to us. In order for that process to begin, I had to first wallow in the muck of despair and longing for a daughter I could no longer have as a physical presence in my world. I wallowed in the muck of my grief after my daughter Jeannine’s death for a good two-and-one-half years. After that time, my restless and fractured heart decided that I had to wallow through the muck instead of in it. I didn’t have a clear vision of how that was going to happen, but I was convinced that it needed to happen.


Movement Provides Clarity

I have long been a fan of Neil Peart. He is regarded by many as the best drummer on the planet and has been the words behind the music of the band Rush for over three decades. He is not only a brilliant lyricist and musician but a brilliant writer, who rebuilt his life after catastrophic loss. His daughter Selena, age 19, died on August 10, 1997 as a result of a car accident and his common-law wife, Jackie died on June 20, 1998 of cancer. Peart became a bereaved parent and a young widower in the space of ten months.  One year after the death of his daughter, he embarked on a 55,000 mile, fourteen-month journey on his motorcycle across Canada, the United States and Mexico. He chronicled his travels in his book Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road. Peart’s book also describes his grief experiences and the intense emotional pain associated with constantly reliving his losses. In addition, he described his appreciation of nature and history and how it was relevant to him during his journey.  Physical movement in the form of travel helped Peart find clarity and a renewed sense of purpose after the deaths of his wife and daughter. My own journey of self-discovery has involved( among other things) a movement of a different kind that has included embracing the teachings of Native American Animal Medicine to help me look at life and death from a different perspective. My friend and spiritual witness, Patty exposed me to these teachings in November of 2010. In addition, I believe that being open to the insights that Neil Peart expressed in his book, laid the foundation for me to be open to the teachings of animals and in the process helped me begin to look at my grief from a different perspective.

My Path to Self-Discovery

When I leave I don't know

What I'm hoping to find

When I leave I don't know

What I'm leaving behind...

Lyrics by Neil Peart

-From the song, The Analog Kid by Rush


After I made the decision to wallow through the muck of my grief, I didn’t know what  I was hoping to find on my own journey of self –discovery. Unlike The Analog Kid though, I knew what I would leave behind. The disempowerment in pain, longing, anger and the disordered state of my mind, body and soul would be welcomed casualties in my personal journey of self-discovery. How I would get there would be uncertain and the truths I would discover along the way were also uncertain, but as I have discovered, intent is a powerful facilitator of self-discovery.  


As I approach the end of the tenth year of my journey after Jeannine's death,  I have discovered many truths that have allowed me to look at life and death from many different dimensions. In the process, I have become content with life as I know it to be now. Those truths have freed me from the chains that shackled me during my early grief.  I will never ever forget Jeannine or cease to intermittently experience the pain of her physical absence. Today, I realize that she lives though me and has guided me to others who became part of my current support group, at the times when I needed them the most.


Embrace The Analog Kid Within

My wish for those who are wallowing in the muck of early grief is to develop the restless energy of Neil Peart’s analog kid and embrace a path of self-discovery. It doesn’t matter if you travel to faraway places or to the inner recesses of your mind and soul to discover your truth. State your intent, go with it and be open to what comes. The truth lies within. It may not have been the truth we envisioned speaking but it is the truth we were destined to speak.

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About the Author
I became a parent who experienced the death of a child after my daughter Jeannine died of cancer on 3/1/03 at the age of 18. I am a retired addiction professional and am also an adjunct professor in the psychology and psychology-child life departments at Utica College. In 2007, I established Bootsy and Angel Books, LLC(www.bootsyandangel.com). The mission of Bootsy and Angel Books is to provide information, support, and services to individuals and families who have experienced the death of a child or other catastrophic losses. I have presented workshops at national conferences of The Compassionate Friends since 2008 and at gatherings of the Bereaved Parents of the USAin 2009 , 2011 and 2012. I have been a keynote speaker for national gathering of the Bereaved Parents of the USA in both 2011 and 2015. I am also the chapter leader for The Compassionate Friends of the Mohawk Valley. I have contributed articles to Living with Loss Magazine ,We Need Not Walk Alone, Hello Grief and Recovering the Self Journal. I have co-authored two books with Linda Findlay of Mourning Discoveries on navigating through grief during the holidays and pet loss. I am a contributing writer for the Open to Hope Foundation and have also appeared on Healing the Grieving Heart and the Open to Hope Television show.. I am also a featured speaker, workshop presenter and coach for Aspire Place(www.aspireplace.com) You can also find me on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/david.j.roberts1
I'm Grieving, Now What?