double rainbow

On loss: Maria Shriver and Susan Saint James

29 August 2010

It is a sign of a good life to have much to lose. I’ve been lucky – I have my parents, my husband, my children, a large extended family and many longtime friends. But as I approach midlife, I feel acutely the inevitability of losing people that I love. An abundance of love is a great blessing, but I’m not sure it makes the fear of loss any less terrifying or will make coping with actual loss any less wrenching.

Today’s brain food speakers give me comfort that we can survive the loss of a loved one without losing hope. First is Maria Shriver speaking in 2009 about the recent passing of her mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver. Second is actress Susan Saint James being interviewed in 2004 days after the sudden death of her 14 year old son Teddy in a plane crash. Most people are understandably reluctant to speak about deeply personal losses. I admire the strength and courage of these accomplished individuals in speaking out about their experiences to give others insight into coping with and learning from tragedy. They are honest, moving and inspirational.

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This very personal and poignant speech by Maria Shriver was given at her amazing Women’s Conference, held each fall in Long Beach, CA. I was fortunate enough to attend the 2007 conference, having found tickets on Craigslist and left my three young children for the day with my young single brother (who decided that day that his upper limit on offspring would be two). I have since been a follower of the Women’s Conference online and loved this speech Maria Shriver gave in 2009, two months after the death of her beloved mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver. There is no transcript available, but the video is well worth 16 minutes of your time.

Here’s the link in case you have trouble with the imbedded video:

Maria Shriver on grieving, Women’s Conference, Long Beach, CA, October 2009

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I happened to see this interview with Susan Saint James live on the Today show in 2004, and it touched me so that I have remembered it ever since. Her 14 year old son Teddy had just died in a horrible Thanksgiving weekend plane crash, which her 21 year old son Charlie and husband, NBC Sports Chairman Dick Ebersol, survived. In this intimate interview she speaks with great warmth and wisdom, deep sadness without anger, incredible faith, and gratitude for the time she had with Teddy.

Here’s one quote:

Somebody told me once that God’s will is what happened yesterday. I don’t believe that God’s going, “Oh, Susan’s things are going really good there. I think I’ll go and tweak that a little bit.” It’s just not like that. It’s just a big world that’s been set in a free-will situation. It’s how we react and how we go on that. I have a right and my kids have the right to just be really sad. But we’re not mad-sad. I’m not mad…I just want to move forward. I tell my kids, “Having resentment is like taking poison and hoping the other guy dies.”

I was surprised and pleased to find the Today show still has the full transcript available online. The late great journalist Tim Russert conducted the interview:

Interview with Susan Saint James, Today show, NBC, December 2004

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I hope some of you will share your thoughts.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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