Soon after my beloved son Richard died suddenly of a pulmonary embolism at age 46 in September of 2014, my family and I began experiencing what we call ‘Richard Sightings’. For us a ‘sighting’ is a coincidence or synchronicity that reminds us of him or causes us to feel his presence.
Richard was my only child. His death was my worst nightmare. It hasn’t been easy to move from my worst fear, heart break, pain, suffering, and anger, to feelings of love, support and connection. 20 years prior, I experienced another sudden tragedy when my stepson Logan was killed in a head on train collision in Gary, Indiana. While that experience did not prepare me for this one, it did prepare me to move toward what feels better and away from what doesn’t.
When my stepson Logan died, I began a journey of grief through very painful multiple losses. Within a year and a half of his death, my marriage also died. This meant that I lost my husband, my home, my neighborhood, and in many ways, my identity. I was in graduate school when Logan died. When I completed school with an MFA, I was really lost. Not much mattered to me, except survival. Sometimes that was even in question.
Positive memories of Logan and shared 'sightings' or mysteries surrounding his death seemed to grab my attention. Some experiences felt so incredibly profound, like Logan asking his mother before he boarded the train that day, if trains run on the same track. She replied that they didn’t. Logan and 6 others died on the only part of shared track on the South Shore line called the gauntlet bridge.
Occurrences such the sudden extinction of a candle flame, or a hovering butterfly helped us to feel Logan’s presence. The 'sightings' felt positive and somehow temporarily free of grief. In addition to ‘sightings’ I was struck by uncanny ‘knowing’, like Logan asking if trains run on the same track. Why would Logan ask such a question on the very day that he died?
Healing took a very long time, for me. Years of art making and years of grieving. Eventually the grief and losses became woven into the fabric of my life. What surfaced in me was a calling to help others. I knew that if I could come through such tragedy and grief and reinvent myself, I could possibly help others to find their way. I wanted to legitimize what I knew about healing and returned to school for second masters’ degree in art therapy. My specialty became grief, loss and trauma. Over time, I became the assistant director of mental health at a large non profit organization in NYC, while maintaining a private practice. I became busy. ‘Sightings’ gave way to a ‘normal’ life of schedules, pressures, stresses and happiness.
Then, my family was stuck by lightening again. Richard died suddenly and unexpectedly, 20years after Logan. Within days of Richard’s death, ‘sightings’ began. This time with texting and the ease of taking photos, which was non existent when Logan died, 3 of my nieces, and 1 of my sisters and I now share ‘sightings’ when they occur.
I have found that the ‘sightings’ improve the quality of our lives by keeping us in a close loop, even though we are spread throughout the country. We all feel more connected to Richard’s energy, when ‘sightings’ like today happen. After my morning meditation where I have a dialogue with Richard, I decided to take a bike ride to the Back Bay, here in Newport Beach, a ride that Richard and I shared many times. It was a great ride on the Back Bay. The stormy sky let out a brief downpour of rain early on my ride. Richard loved a dramatic sky. The rain made the Back Bay the most beautiful that I’ve seen since moving here a year and a half ago. As I took in the beauty, I felt Richard’s love for this place. I saw the start of a rainbow in a dark cloud mass. I thought to myself, that’s no sign. That’s too easy. Of course, there’s going to be a rainbow in these conditions.
I rode on. Then, a Southwest Airlines jet crossed the sky. Richard died on a Southwest jet on the last leg of a trip back from Chicago to Newport Beach last September. I told myself that it’s not unusual, living this close to John Wayne Airport to see a Southwest jet in the sky. I took note but didn’t consider this a ‘sighting’.
Then I saw a young man about Richard’s age walking a beautiful Husky, who looked like our family dog Zeppelin. A psychic said that she saw Richard walking with a dog in the forest. As I passed the young man and the dog, I decided to allow myself to feel a stronger connection to Richard because it felt better than the doubt and helped to not feel so sad about riding alone.
Still riding, I noticed a fish jump out of the water. That really got my attention. After Richard’s funeral some family members and I went down to the nearby beach to drop roses into the ocean. At a meaningful moment, a fish jumped out of the water and grabbed all of our attention. It was stunning.
Toward the end of the trail today, there was one last hill to conquer before getting home. It’s slow going but not too grueling when using the lowest gears. I visually imagined Richard in front of me, as he was so often on our bike rides. At this point on the trail, he sort of wagged his front fork so that he wouldn’t just topple over because he was moving so slow. I have adopted his technique. As I was maneuvering up the hill, wagging my front fork, a black crow landed on a perch near me and squawked several time. I burst out laughing. A black crow has been a ‘Richard sighting’ for sometime now. This one sounded like he was taunting me, making me laugh and lose concentration. Richard had a taunting humor. I was glad to feel him today. The ‘sightings’ are one part of what helps me to feel connected to life.
Years ago when my stepson, Logan was killed instantly in a head on train collision, my path of healing crossed Dr Jack Miller and his 12-week intensive process for healing grief, loss and trauma called The Phoenix Project. I participated in PP #9. As you will read…he is beginning PP #52 this summer. There are many orchestrated opportunities for participants to engage deeply with their process in The Phoenix Project. One of them is Shadow Night.
Simply stated, in Jungian psychology, the ‘shadow’ or ‘shadow aspect’ refers to an unconscious aspect of the personality which the conscious ego does not identify in itself. Dr Miller identifies an unconscious aspect in each participant that they then bring to life on shadow night…
The following email is from Dr Miller to those of us who have completed The Phoenix Project. We are spread out all over the world. He has given me permission to reprint this story…
From Dr Miller, July 10, 2015
A number of you have heard me speak about the Shadow Night adventure of PP#45 (4 yrs ago
here in Portland). The story line for that night was about a traditional circus which was transitioning into a Cirque-du-Soleil-like circus -- no longer using animals. On that night our Cirque was taking their very last animal (a bear) & presenting him to the King & Queen of the forest, who would then return the bear to the forest.
Mark (a massage therapist at that time) played the King of the Forest. He was not in PP#45, but helped out on that night for the fun of it. Unbeknownst to me, Mark invited several friends to show up & see our Shadow event in downtown Portland. One friend (Susan) came & saw the bear being returned to the forest.
Jump ahead now to PP#52, which will begin here in the Portland area on Sunday. Both Mark & Susan are going to be in PP#52. Last Saturday, Susan was driving her RV to the ocean. She was driving on the road thru the woods. When all of a sudden a large bear came running out of the woods & ran right into the RV. It then turned & ran back into the forest.
Susan was overwhelmed & fell into deep sobbing (grieving the loss of her son and other losses). She sobbed uncontrollably for over a half hour feeling amazing catharsis & relief afterwards.
And thus begins the journey of PP#52 here in the Pacific Northwest, as we get ready to set sail on our Night Sea Voyage. Stay tuned 🌊😎 End of email.
I ask, is this just a coincidence? What are the chances of this happening to the same person who witnessed the symbolic bear being released 4 yrs ago? If not a coincidence, what does it mean? Since my son Richard died 9 months ago, experiences like these provide comfort. I had to ask myself when Richard died, how does one person get struck by lightening twice? The question has opened a curiosity and awe of the more spiritual realm of existence, instead of constricting pain and anger, even though I miss my son dearly every single day.
Soon after my beloved son Richard died suddenly of a pulmonary embolism at age 46 in September of 2014, my family and I began experiencing what we call Richard ‘sightings’. For us a ‘sighting’ is a coincidence or synchronicity that reminds us of him or causes us to feel his presence.
Richard was my only child. His death was my worst nightmare. It hasn’t been easy to move from my worst fear, pain, suffering, and anger, (constricting energy) to feelings of love, support and connection, (open energy). 20 years ago, I experienced another sudden tragedy when my stepson was killed in a head on collision of two trains in the Midwest. While that experience did not prepare me for this, it did prepare me for knowing what I don’t want to recreate…which was years of suffering, pain, isolation, anger and withdrawal.
When my stepson Logan died, I began a journey of self discovery through very painful multiple losses, including the loss of my marriage, my home, my neighborhood and my path. Positive memories of him and shared 'sightings' or mysteries that were occurring then such as the sudden extinction of a candle, or a hovering butterfly. The 'sightings' seemed free of grief and somehow felt very positive although curious. While short lived, they caught my attention because they were in such contrast to the pain. Years later, as the grief and losses receded into the fabric of my life, I was able to create meaning out of my experiences. I became an art psychotherapist to help others through grief and loss. My specialty was trauma.
Art helped me to express what was inside and later reflect on the images and learn more deeply about myself. In my practice, I share what I learned with others. Eventually, I became very busy, as the assistant director of mental health at a large non profit in NYC while maintaining a private practice.
Similarly to when Logan died, soon after Richard died, ‘sightings’ began. This time with social media that was non existent when Logan died 20 years ago, 3 nieces, 1 sister and I share ‘sightings’ via texts, photos and sometimes email. The ‘sightings’ have improved the quality of our lives by keeping us in a close loop, even though we are spread throughout the country. We all feel more connected to Richard who, we believe, still exists, though in non physical form.
What happens when we die? The study of near death experiences has been very helpful in helping me develop a perspective that coincides with my experience. While I won’t know what happens when we die, and won't until I die, I find that when I focus on love and positive feelings that I have for Richard, the channel between us is open and I can feel him. When I focus on the pain, sorrow and suffering, the channel between us closes. In the past several months, I am getting better and better at shifting out of pain and into openness, where I can feel his presence. I did not get to this place without battling doubt along the way…
When he was in physical form, Richard, was someone who was curious about life and the possibility of communication from the other side. He was known to watch the Long Island Psychic. Richard was someone who had a larger than life personality and an inner strength that those who knew him speak of often. In our family, we have said that if anyone could or would make himself known from the other side it would be Richard.
Most recently, I traveled to visit family and friends during Richard’s birthday week. The day I arrived in Chicago a double rainbow appeared as my family and I gathered.
The next day, I was traveling with my niece. We walked into a store to pickup bottled water. She noticed that SmartWater was on sale 2/$3. I went to grab 1. She reminded me that they were 2/$3 and “why not get 2”? So I did. In the store, I had fun with the water bottles, pretending their were barbells, lifting them up over my head. On the way to the car, a black crow landed on a parking lot light high above the car. Black crows have become a Richard ‘sighting’ for us because black crows have big personalities and can make quite a racket. I have seen a black crow at Richard’s grave site, there is one that wakes me up some mornings on the small island where I live, and there was this crow high above our heads grabbing for our attention. I said ‘OK, Richard, I see you.' My niece and I stood there for a while engaging with the bird until it flew away. We laughed at ourselves, got in the car and felt better. She was driving me to a subway station for a trip into the city where I had an appointment with a body healer.
Earlier that morning, my niece and I were talking about how sad Richard's daughter was to discover that her Chinese astrology animal was an ox. She is five years old. She would have preferred being a monkey like her daddy (Richard) or a rabbit like her mom. In the car with my niece, I looked at one of the the SmartWater bottles that I just bought. It was lying in my lap with the reverse side of the SmartWater logo facing me…I saw an image of a monkey and the following words: Monkey Think. Monkey Do. I thought of Richard again. I had never noticed an image or writing on the reverse side of the SmartWater logo although I have had the water many times. Even so doubt was creeping in. Maybe it is creeping in for you as you read this. I thought perhaps they had a monkey printed on every bottle as a company symbol. Nonetheless, I photographed the image.
I got on the subway train feeling a sad about Richard. Tears started to well up in my eyes. All of a sudden, I felt Richard’s presence with me. I felt his arm around my shoulder. I could hear him saying in my mind, “It’s going to be alright, mom. Don’t worry. I’m with you.” I felt a peaceful feeling wash over me. Later that day, I opened the second SmartWater bottle that I had purchased. In place of the monkey was an elephant symbol and a different saying. I texted the image to my Richard ‘sighting’ group. That was a ‘sighting’.
The next day, I asked my sister to take me to buy some items including water. I turned every SmartWater bottle around to locate a monkey. There were none! I could say that the experience was a coincidence but it feels better to think that his energy was with me. He didn't make the monkey icon appear but rather he or his memory helped me to be open enough to be curious, open enough for a possibility to present itself and open enough to allow a peaceful feeling to replace pain. I allowed myself to hold doubt at bay long enough to share in the delight, joy, laughter, love and sharing between all of us in the 'sightings' group.