Interview with Tammy Johnson and the Tragic Death of her Son – A Choice of Perspective
In 2016 a dear friend of mine went through an event that many deem to be the worst thing we can experience. The loss of a child. When I first saw the post on Facebook – the fastest way for news to travel these days – I was in utter disbelief. I couldn’t imagine it had happened, and I had no idea what to say or how to even approach her. I called around to check on her but didn’t think it best to join the throngs of people who would no doubt be pounding down her door with their condolences. It was too soon. I imagined she needed to have time to mourn, adjust, do what people do during something so unthinkable. I didn’t know how she would handle it, she was a single mom who had always been close to her son – he was her whole world. Was she going to be rolled up in a ball? Would she start using drugs to dull the pain? Would she be incapacitated for years? When I finally got to speak with her I was beyond surprised at her resilience. Frankly, I was baffled, I certainly didn’t feel that I would have handled such a thing with as much calm as she had. As I spoke to her I found that her choice of perspective in this story was one that allowed for the healthiest possible takeaway. So, I asked her if she’d share her story.
Desmond Tutu said, “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.”
As you’ll hear in the interview I am careful, even timid in asking her questions, still wanting to be so careful with such a topic. But she agreed to share her story and her perspective so that if her experience and choice of perspective could help someone else some good could be shared.
Listen to the podcast to hear Tammy tell the story of Hunter’s last day and her response.
The choice to chose our perspective is always our own. This is such a huge part of controlling our stories and creating our realities, our happiness, our unhappiness, our peace, our jealousy, our envy, our fear, our sadness. I feel like I’ve beaten this story tool to death because I’ve been writing about it so much lately, but that is precisely because it’s the foundation of our happiness. Could Tammy have looked at her son’s death as a tragic loss, unfair, and cruel as it was? Of course, but could she also choose to focus on his relief, on his time with God, rather than her deep pain and loss? That’s what she chose. I’m reminded of the story, I shared in one of the earlier episodes about Viktor Frankl. Viktor was a prominent Jewish psychiatrist who survived the camps of Auschwitz and Dachau. Viktor talks about an elderly man who came to see him a couple years after his beloved wife had passed away. The man was distraught with grief and couldn’t move on with life because he was severely depressed. Viktor had been through the worst types of suffering, so he understood pain. He sat quietly and listened to the man pour out his grief and sorrow. When the man had finished Dr. Frankl asked him just one questions: What would have happened if you had died first and your wife would have survived you? Well, the man said, “for her, this would have been terrible; how she would have suffered!” To this, Dr. Frankl replied, “You see, such a suffering has been spared her, and it was you who have spared her this suffering, to be sure, at the price that now you have to survive and mourn her.” The man was so moved by Dr. Frankl’s words that he simply stood up, shook his hand, and left, never to return. At the moment the perspective shifts the burden lightens.
Your challenge this week is to find one of the stories in your life that you are currently feeling anxiety or pain about. Take some time and consider some other ways of interpreting that story. See what other angles you can take and which angle helps you to deal in the healthiest way with the event at hand.
You are worthy, wonderful and you’ve got some tools to create your biggest, boldest and most satisfying life – so do it. It’s the month of Thanksgiving, so don’t forget to count your blessings and maybe bring some gratitude into those perspective shifts.
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