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Adjunct professor of psychology-Utica College.Past HuffPost contributor. Writes about grief and growth after loss.

How I knew that my deceased mother, Sadie, would welcome my daughter Jeannine home after her death

Photo by Kyle Nieber on Unsplash

Recently, my thoughts gravitated to a day in mid-February of 2002. I was walking briskly, anxious to get to the oncology unit where my daughter Jeannine had received one of her last chemotherapy treatments. As I was walking, my eyes darted to a hospital room on the left. In there was a woman who lifted herself up from her bed and looked straight at me. She was pointing to the oxygen tube affixed to her nostrils. I did a double-take because this woman looked exactly like my mother in the final chapter of her life.

After a minute or so…

How this movie helped me find my voice in early grief after the death of my daughter

Photo by Olesia Misty on Unsplash

Mystic River is a movie that premiered in 2003 and featured an all-star cast of Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Marcia Gay Harden, Lawrence Fishburne, and Kevin Bacon. What follows is a plot summary from Mystic River’s Wikipedia page:

In the first scene of the movie, three boys — Jimmy Markum (Penn), Sean Devine (Bacon), and Dave Boyle (Robbins) are playing street hockey, when Dave is kidnapped by two men posing as police officers. Dave was sexually abused for four days before he managed to escape. Twenty-five years later, the boys are grown and, while they still live in Boston, have…

But she was wrong


After my daughter, Jeannine’s death in 2003, all of her favorite things were meticulously placed in several storage bins, which can be found safely tucked away in the lower level of my home. Whenever I am feeling nostalgic and yearning to connect with the essence of my daughter in new and novel ways, I will go bin surfing. The memories are inevitably pleasing to me, a reminder of the 18 years that she gifted me, my wife, and her two brothers with her presence on earth. Sometimes memories of Jeannine can trigger feelings of longing or thoughts about who she…

Know Yourself #23

Photo by Berkay Gumustekin on Unsplash

Describe your first experience dealing with death.

Puppy Love

I have danced with death for as long as I can remember. The first encounter that I had with death, compared to my overall experiences was relatively minor. During the past couple of days, the memories connected to this event seemingly came out of nowhere. But in recent years, I have learned that nothing truly manifests out of nowhere. So I began to revisit past memories of my first experience with death, believing that there would be some teachings to uncover.

I was approximately seven years old, two years removed from my father leaving me and my mother without warning…

What I learned about nature, grief, and myself after I climbed Bald Mountain

Taishan Mountain-Photo by Junyao Yang on Unsplash

Granted Revelations

Recently, I was listening to a song called Tai Shan by Rush. The lyrics, written by their drummer, the late Neil Peart, was about his climb to the top of Mount Tai, a sacred mountain in China in 1985. In Mystic Rhythms: The Philosophical Vision of Rush by Carol Selby Price, she shares some of her reflections about the meaning of Peart’s lyrics.

The piece explores “the idea of a mysticism of place and past. One reaches the crest of Tai’ Shan, the sacred mountain, where a revelation will be vouchsafed (i.e. granted), by climbing seven thousand steps.”

My internet…

Memories of my first father-daughter rock concert. It was also the start of a new chapter in our relationship.

Photo by Joel Muniz on Unsplash

When my daughter, Jeannine, was twelve years old, she went through what I called “the wilderness phase” in her growth and development. She began to act out behaviorally, testing limits and boundaries that me and my wife, Cheri, had established in our home. Because of my background in human services, I understood that Jeannine’s limit testing was a normal part of her pre-teen experience, and further reflected her desire to establish autonomy and independence from her immediate family. In later years, I also concluded that her acting out was partly in response to the death of my mother, Sadie, when…

Haunted by a twenty-eight-year-old event that could have turned out much differently.

Photo by Huper by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

Approximately three weeks ago, I awoke from what was seemingly a sound sleep, feeling extremely anxious. I immediately began thinking about an incident that occurred in 1994 while employed as an addiction counselor at a New York State inpatient drug rehabilitation center. I reluctantly discharged an individual with whom I was working for violating our facility policy about drug use. Except, he wasn’t accused of actually using drugs, but simply talking about it with a group of his peers in his living area. …

Returning to school in the midst of a pandemic

Photo by Nick Bolton on Unsplash

I have had August 24, 2020, marked on my calendar for a while now. On that date, I will return to the Utica College campus to teach classes for the first time since we transitioned to online instruction in March, due to the coronavirus pandemic. My classes will be set up in hybrid format, meaning that half of my students will be in the classroom, while the other half will join the class in real-time via Zoom. Hybrid instruction allows for classroom sizes to be smaller, facilitating social distancing.

I am gratified and excited to be in the classroom again…

It was not just another car ride

When my deceased daughter Jeannine was fifteen, we were driving home after running an errand. As I turned onto the road that would eventually bring us to our house, a dead squirrel came directly into view. This squirrel had already been run over several times by other vehicles. I figured that it wouldn’t make that much of a difference if I ran over it again, as irreparable damage had already been done to this poor animal. However, Jeannine emphatically ordered me to go around the squirrel. She appeared to be extremely upset that I would dare inflict more harm on…

How a serendipitous encounter with a former client helped me look at my estranged father’s actions differently

My father was Austin Roberts. He left my mother and me when I was five years old.

I struggled for many years with his decision to leave, angry and hurt that I was deprived of my biological father during my formative years.

I later discovered through conversation with my mother that he was, in all likelihood, unfaithful during their marriage. I also found out that my dad had one previous marriage, and that he remarried again after leaving us. He died in July of 1966 at the age of forty-one.

I have previously published stories about the teachings that have…

Dave Roberts

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