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Carol's Columns

I Know This Sounds Strange But...

Often in my counseling practice I would hear these words. Normally they were brought up in a self conscious manner by a client hesitant to mention anything at all. The uncanny incident, which was typically brought up after a few sessions, was usually prefaced by, "I know you will think this is strange, Dr. Kearns but...." Then I might hear her say that she wondered if there was a way her loved one knew before his death that he might die.

For example, one of my clients, a young mother, became suddenly and violently ill while at work as if kicked in the stomach. She ran from her business meeting to relieve herself in the restroom. When she returned moments later, her secretary gave her an urgent message to call her son's day care. A message any of us would fear! The day care informed her that her three-year-old had been in an accident and was in route to the hospital. She flew from her office and grabbed a cab, but when she arrived she was informed her son had died. Jason had choked on a cracker after nap time, and neither the teachers nor paramedics were able to resuscitate him. He had died in the ambulance before reaching the hospital. My client, who had felt perfectly fine prior to her nausea attack, believed there was a connection. "Seems like more than a coincidence to me that I would feel violently ill at the same time my son was choking to death four miles away."

Another woman on her lunch break was excited to pick up photos that had just been developed of a Hawaiian holiday she and her husband had recently taken. While sharing the photos with her coworkers she began to cry. Puzzled by this reaction she commented, "I have no idea why I'm feeling sad. This was such a happy time for us." Approximately a half hour later, she received a call that her husband had been killed in an accident when his car was struck by a truck on the freeway.

These are only a couple examples of the many stories I have heard over my 23 years of trauma couns eling. I know many of you have had your own experiences or have heard stories from other Compassionate Friends parents. Because of this and because of my own uncanny experiences surrounding my daughter Kristen's death, I decided to address these experiences in the book I am writing. They are not unusual. More examples can be found in a sample chapter on this website.

Science may disregard these occurrences as flukes and lacking scientific proof, but I have always believed that life is bigger than science. People are often hesitant to share their experiences, fearing they may be harshly judged. I'm always reminded of what Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, M.D., the pioneer in the field of death and dying would say. I had the privilege of working with her after Kristen's death and heard her express many times that there is no such thing as a coincidence. "We must remember that "coincidence" is just a word. We need to look at the dynamic around the event."

In April there will be a workshop at Georgia and John Alioto's where you can feel free to share your experiences and hear of the experiences of others. I believe that sharing like this can help us in our healing. Each of us must find our own path toward an understanding of our child's death. If this workshop gives us just one more step down that path, then it is well worth the time. I look forward to seeing many of you there.