Judy Unger is a Shining Light mother. Judy’s five year old son Jason passed away in 1992 at the tender age of 5 years old. Jason had a severe congenital heart defect.
Judy’s grief journey was unusual in that it was 18 years later, in 2010, at the age of 50, that Judy really began processing her grief. She joined Compassionate Friends and even led a group after Jason passed. But, it wasn’t until her parents’ health challenges in 2010 that Judy was broken open and experienced a creative and emotional renaissance.
I met Judy just a week or so before we recorded this interview. She joined a circle I created on Insight Timer and shared with us her course: “Healing Grief Through Music“. Judy has repurposed songs she wrote early in her life and songs she wrote while she was going through her parents’ health issues into a series of 10 daily lessons that beautifully portray the highs and lows of grief. I found the course to be an excellent one for anyone in the early stages of grief or really any stage.
You can find out more about Judy at: www.judyungermusic.com
The Insight Timer course is free and is at: Healing Grief Through Music
Close your eyes and imagine what if the things in life to cause us the greatest pain, the things that bring us grief, or challenges, challenges designed to help us grow to ultimately become what we were always meant to be. We feel like we’ve been buried. But what if, like a seed had been planted and having been planted, who grow to become a mighty tree. Now, open your eyes. Open your eyes to this way of viewing life. Come with me as we explore your true, infinite, eternal nature. This is grief to growth. And I am your host, Brian Smith.
Brian Smith 0:45
Hey everybody, this is Brian back with another episode of grief to growth and today I’ve got with me a fellow shining light parents Her name is Judy Unger, I met Judy recently, through an app that I use called insight timer, which if you’ve listened to the program before, you’ve heard me talk about insight timer all the time, and I formed a circle and inside timer and Judy joined the circle. Judy, I’m going to read your biography and then I’ll tell you why she’s here. Judy’s been a commercial illustrator since 1981. And illustrations can be seen in many well known food labels. for 30 years she focused on her art career in her family. She gave up songwriting and playing guitar, which was something she loved as a young girl. In 1992, Judy’s five year old son Jason died from a severe congenital heart defect. Judy wanted to be buried with them in Greece, Walder up for swelled her life up for almost two decades. And night and 2010 at the age of 50. Judy was caring for her parents and coping with the challenges she faced with the three surviving children. During that time she became exhausted, uninspired and sad. It was truly a miracle. At the age of 50, she was able to experience a creative and emotional Renaissance, Judy opened her heart to write the deeply painful experience of losing Jason, and her journey toward healing began sharing the story of his brief life transformed her, and the grief that she carried was lifted. finding joy after 18 years of sorrow was a gift that Judy had never imagined. Music was a magic carpet that lifted her over all of her stress. She was very close to both her parents, and it was hard to watch them suffer. But her songs ease their pains and she was especially grateful to both her parents witnessed her joy before they died. Judy is a passionate songwriter. His songs comprise a musical of her life. Many of her songs are dedicated to her son Jason should rediscover the songs composing her youth and wrote new songs that helped her cope with their current challenges. And that’s how I met Judy, because she’s taken some of her songs and turned them into a course on insight timer. And that’s where I spend a lot of time talking about today. Judy’s blog, my journeys, insight and illustrating my life, as rich people all over the world. Her book beside me always is available on Amazon and on Kindle. Judy also creates meditation music for insight timer, and we’re going to talk about her free course, which is healing grief through music, Judy wants is here today to convey your optimism and her belief that if she could heal, perhaps others could find hope with her story, if her words and music bring any level of comfort to another person, and she believes she has achieved more in her lifetime than she’s ever dreamed of. So with that, I want to welcome Judy Unger.
Judy Unger 3:14
Thank you. Thank you again for having me. I’m honored. Yeah, Judy,
Brian Smith 3:18
I’m glad you’re here. I am a believer in synchronicities. I think that people come across our lives that were meant to meet. And as I mentioned, in the intro, I use this app insight timer. I literally use it every day. And they have a new feature on there where you can create circles, and I created a circle and you came in. And you told me about this course. And I looked at the overview of the course I’m like, this looks fantastic. And there are 10 lessons, I will confess, I’m on lesson nine. I haven’t finished the 10th lesson yet. But it’s it’s it’s great. And it’s healing grief through music, which I’m a big fan of music. So tell me about First I want to I want to get a chance to talk about Jason. So tell me about Jason.
Judy Unger 3:58
Um, well, I was just gonna say about my course I should have named it healing grief through my music, but I shortened it to make it just more palatable because I really can’t say healing grief through music, you know, music to you, because I don’t know how everybody is going to respond or heal. I know people in grief that have told me that they cannot listen to music. it stirs up the memories and it makes them ill. And I understand that too. I did not have music during my grade. It was a long time before the music came back to me. And I’m grateful to that every day. Jason Wow. What can I say about little Jason, he lived five years. And he taught me so much but I have to be honest. When when he died. I felt different than other breed parents. I had this horrible revelation that I wish he had never been born or I wished he had died as an infant because he was very sick when he was born. He barely made it and my rationale for that was If he had died early, I wouldn’t have suffered as much because I grew to love him. I was his caregiver, he was fragile. It was my involvement and dedication that actually kept them alive. He almost died so many times. So having that burden and feeling that there was just only torture, and the fact that I have remaining children, I had another son, that was two. And later on, he was diagnosed with autism. And I didn’t know I thought it was great. He was screaming all the time, he wouldn’t talk. So not only did I lose this very articulate, old man who was five years old, after heart surgery, I had another child that wouldn’t stop screaming. They couldn’t even say, Mommy, so he was five years old. And I got pregnant right away. So I threw myself into my children. And that was my distraction, and also my survival, my coping. But it wasn’t even until I wrote about grief, which was 18 years after his death, that I learned that Jason’s name and healer, and I didn’t, I didn’t name them, knowing that it was just really astonishing for me. He was very worse. He was like a shining light, he sparkles. He was exuberance. I’m grateful that he didn’t really suffer. He could have suffered, I think in some ways I tell parents that have lost children worse than death is to see your child suffer. For me, I mean, that’s my belief. So my whole goal was to keep him from suffering to do everything during the short life that would make him comfortable. And when you’re a caregiver, I mean, every there is no good death in there. I don’t like to compare, because you’ll often hear the worst death suicides. You know, losing an older child is different than losing a young losing a young child. And I went through all that, because I was very involved with a lot of other bereaved parents. But I learned comparisons, just what is the point? You know, my grief is worse than your grief, it’s all bad, you know, there, there just really isn’t a point to compare. So it took me a long time. But eventually, I realized that I’m actually grateful that I had him. I don’t believe that I wish he would have died. It was just very hard to be a parents, to my surviving children. What kind of a parent would I be to my daughter who was born less than a year after his death? I was not going to sing to her. I wasn’t smiling. I was crying all the time with the pregnancy has been affected by all the grief. So that’s a lot, a lot to carry. Yeah,
Brian Smith 7:51
yeah, absolutely. Well, I wanna I want to go back to something you said earlier, before you start talking about Jason and the idea of healing through music. And I do have friends, who’s after the children have passed? It’s too. Music is too powerful. I can’t listen to it. I’m exactly the opposite. My daughter passed away in the summer, I walk every day. And I was listening to music and seeking out music that would help me heal to process the feelings that I was going through. So you write a little bit different for everybody. And for some people might take a while because your music was taken away from you for a while. And I know, another parent I work with who creates music and creates art much like yourself. And when his son passed away, he couldn’t even go near his instruments for for quite a while.
Judy Unger 8:37
Yeah. Well, what’s interesting for me is to backtrack on the journey. My music and songwriting was during the time before I had children before I got married. And when I got married, I put it aside because I became career oriented. And I also think I wasn’t connected to my heart, I began to suppress my feelings. I thought, I’m not really happy, but I’ve got to be a mature woman and accept that this is what married life is, and I just don’t feel like singing anymore. Then when I had Jason, who was my first child, he loved music. So it revived my music for that time just for him. It wasn’t about original songs. It was about whatever he wanted to hear. And he had his own little guitar. So after he died, the thought that I could ever sing again. It was like I did try for my other children because they deserve to hear a song or two, but my heart was, and I never dreamed I’d sing again. But here’s the little clue. A very tiny clue. It’s actually a big clue. When I was 17, I wrote a song named beside me always. And it was a it was for boyfriends. And it was just the feeling that he would still be with me in future. I have other songs like that. And then Jason died and I was absolutely in shock, and we had to hold a funeral. And I thought, I don’t think I can get up and speak. So I actually recorded a eulogy. And I wanted some poetry. So I thought about that song. And I decided, you know what, the lyrics are very much about him, somebody being beside you, I’m changing the lyrics. So I revised those lyrics. And I read the funeral. Of course, not seeing them. I couldn’t imagine singing, but I read them. I also had another song called saying goodbye, and another one called more than you know, but three songs that I went. And then I didn’t have music in my life, and the rediscovery of music is an entire story in itself. But it was 18 years after Jason had died, I felt very proud that I had survived grief survived. And that was a huge achievement, I considered it My greatest achievement. Because it was one foot in front of the others. And I sometimes don’t even think I had hope I was crawling, I found that it helped me to connect with other bereaved parents. And that was kind of like holding hands, I remember a grief coach said to me, You need to find someone going through it with you, I can’t really hold your hand, I’m far ahead, find someone also in the same at the same timeframe that you’re going through it. So I found some partners. And in grief, we learn how to walk again, and we shuffle forward. And I, I thought I had survived this, and then it reached a place of suppression, you know, I almost I didn’t cry anymore. I didn’t talk about Jason, I felt like if I talked about him in the beginning, I didn’t want to be with people that talk about trivial things, it would make me really angry, like, you know, I lost my child, and you’re talking about, you know, you’re upset about something mundane. But then later on, it’s like, if I was to mention them, I had a child to die. And then my friend would go, I’m so sorry. And then everything would focus. And then I felt like, I wanted to support my friend and not make them uncomfortable. So I didn’t bring it up. I didn’t say Today’s the anniversary of his death. I just kept it to myself. But I had support from my parents, and from a few good friends and years went by. Yeah, and I was not really happy. I mean, I was just surviving. I had my other children who had issues. I did not have a good marriage, but my determination was Greek was not going to destroy my marriage. So I stayed married no matter what. But the truth was, even before I had children, I was lonely. In fact, I think that’s why I had children to fill the void. So I had so much I wasn’t, I wasn’t acknowledging, and how did I wake up? What changed?
Well, what changed was the loss of my mother and my father, they were getting sick, and I took them in to live with me. And then my mother kept falling and getting sicker and sicker. And at one point, she was on a respirator for like six weeks, and I didn’t think she was going to make it. But I started to every night, I come home from the hospital and write to my family and my friends. And they were captivated by my writing. They said, You’re a really good writer. But it was because I began to share the details, I would tell them, you know, you know, the trick to I could see her blink her eyes and she’s communicating. And I think she’s gonna, you know, I mean, they were hanging on to my descriptions. And she actually slowly improved and she was released from the hospital, it was a miracle. But after that, I thought, you know, I want to keep writing. So I started my blog, my journeys and sites. And I was, I was kind of exhilarated by the idea, what am I going to write about? So I started out writing about what I’ve been through with my living children, you know, how difficult it was to find out my son that surviving had autism, and what I had to go through, and then, you know, having my daughter born right after grade, and then I had my third son, and he also had trouble. So I was just writing all these stories, but I wasn’t writing the hardest one. Yeah, that’s the one. So one day I went in the closet and I took the box out that held all this memorabilia. And I sorted through it. It was 18 years after but it came back is if it had just happened.
Brian Smith 14:43
Yeah, I could. Yeah, I could definitely relate to that. It’s been five and a half for me and you can go right back there just just like that. I do want to ask you a few questions. So it was 18 years before you really sat down to process your grief after after Jason pass. And I want to say This, I want people to hear that because I think it’s very important I work with with clients that was just telling before we start it. Usually it’s in the first six months to a year that, you know, they come to me. And I find they’re like, I’m going to be this way forever, you know, this is never going to change. And when you try to hold that hope out to someone that that’s that early, they just can’t see it. But, you know, it can take us a while to process and we all process a little bit differently. But the question was, did you were part of compassionate friends? Is that right?
Judy Unger 15:29
I was a leader. Yes.
Brian Smith 15:31
How long after Jason passed? Did you join compassionate friends?
Judy Unger 15:36
Well, that’s interesting. Not everybody wants support groups. But for me, it was something desperate. It was like, if I can’t be in a support group, I don’t know what to do. So I looked all over, I started I actually went to a general support group. And that was where I found my partner in grief, my friend and I connected because in this group, there were people that had lost a pet of parents. And we were just, like, scornful, like, oh, my god that has nothing compared to what we’re going through. That was my mistake. You know, at that time, I, I just was so angry, you know, that stage and her and I connected, but then I realized I need something closer. So then I went to a compassionate Friends Meeting, I went to different ones in the area. And here was the thing I would listen in if it was a baby. Or if it was an older guy wanted somebody that had lost the kid like Jason, because only they can understand what I went through a kid that had a heart defect or health issues, because I was a caregiver that was really hard, you know, to lose that, that space in my life. What do I do with myself, and somebody that had lost a child was an older, I had to clean out his bedroom, you know, you had an older child who didn’t have to deal with that I wanted that tool relating. And it was interesting, because I did meet a mother who had a child with a similar heart defect. And it taught me something. Isn’t it interesting, you learn from every person you meet, I beat myself up because my son died after surgery. And I kept thinking, I had another doctor with a different opinion. And this surgeon, my cardiologist recommended her but she really wasn’t a pediatric cardiology, heart surgeon. Maybe he could have survived and I had picked the wrong person or whatever was, yeah. And then this woman, her story was her son needed heart surgery, and she checked them into the hospital. And he died the night before surgery, he didn’t even have surgery, and he dies. So what did that tell me that told me, you know, it’s capricious, I mean, he Jason could have done it before surgery, it just, it is what it is, which is an awful thing to say. But I learned I learned from that. And then in the end, it turned out that there wasn’t going to be anybody that lost Jason only i that is the lonely part. That is the part that’s so horrible about grief. There’s no one that’s going through what you’re going through your personal love and devotion and the horrible loss.
Brian Smith 18:06
Yeah, well, you know, it’s both unique and universal at the same time. You know, it’s we all go through grief, we all we all go through one way or the other there, you know, whether you lost a pet or you lost a child, it’s grief. But there is something very unique about it as well. But a lot of things you said were very common, you know, anger, guilt, you know, what did I do? Could I have done something different? I think every parent goes through that no matter how their child passes, and just we think we’re superhuman, right, we should have done something different.
Judy Unger 18:36
How would I not save my child? That is the ultimate failure. We can’t say my child.
Brian Smith 18:41
Yeah. And the other thing, I’ve seen that also with parents, I guess I just don’t really have it. But I’ve seen it’s very common as I want to talk to somebody whose child died just the way mine did. You know, that’s it. My child was murdered, I need to talk to someone was murdered, because they’re the only ones that could understand. I think I think that’s something that we go through and kind of move through that phase too, before we realize that, yeah, child is losing a child.
Judy Unger 19:06
It’s so different. Now. I can’t believe the person I was versus the person I am. I mean, I’m helping people that have lost older children. They’re just like, I don’t have time to heal. I mean, I’ll be dead in 10 years. You know, it’s like, I just want to die now and be with my child, or the sadness of even a stillbirth or miscarriage. They don’t have any memories. You know, they didn’t get that chance. Right. That’s a huge loss. So my compassion has grown.
Brian Smith 19:34
So what are your what were your thoughts about Jason’s state, I guess, after he after he and I know she would use the word died and I’m part of a group called helping parents heal and we’re very careful with their language. So I don’t I don’t often use the word died. So that’s why I stumble over it because I don’t believe our children die. But um, so what were your thoughts about Jason after after he died? What did you think about where he was? Was he with you? Did you think about it at all?
Judy Unger 20:02
Well, you know, I, it was so awful that I wrote about it. And actually, I could read an excerpt that I wrote for my audio book. Because once I did write his story, and I began healing, I decided that I really wanted to share it. I recorded an audio book with his story and about my songs early on, like two years after that, but it took me another three years or four years till it got out there. And actually, when it got out there, I hired somebody to read the book, because I just didn’t think I could sell it that I didn’t have a professional speaking voice. But I realized that people appreciate the heartfelt nature of it. And actually, I’m inside time or having the live sessions have been wonderful. Because I decided to read the story again, it really takes me back. So let me pull it out real quick. And, okay, I’ll do a little segment on the name of the name of my book is beside me always, which is the song that that truly told my story. And the lyrics to beside me, always that song is so telling. Because even though I wrote the song, back at the age of 17, I still did this thing in the chorus, where the chorus that’s initial is, and when my tears are flowing, and I’m not sure where I’m going, I feel your love, and you’re beside me always in the breeze that’s blowing, you surround me in a breeze that’s blowing. But at the very end, I say, I switch it. And I say you would tell me when your tears are glowing, and you’re not sure where you’re going, just feel my love and I’m beside you always in the breeze that’s blowing on surround you in a breeze that’s blowing. So the whole concept was I’m looking, I’m wondering, and I’m feeling the breeze that’s giving me chills, you know, it’s like, I know he’s there. And now I hear his voice and he’s telling me, I’m there. I’m surrounding you. So when he dies, first of all, I had never seen a dead person in my life. I was innocent. You know, there’s this whole stage of grief before and after. You’re not the same person and you never will be and there’s never and the the absolute the always the never. But I choose to look at that as I’ve transformed. It’s changed my life. And I actually look at it now is a blessing. I didn’t use too bad to breed mother told me the word blessing upsets her. It’s like, Why are other people blessed, and I lost my child, so on curse. So I’m not saying like, I’m better than anybody. But I do say to myself that there’s something positive came out of it. It actually, I thought my songs were dead. That was a dead gone forever. But because of Jason, I injected all of my love to him into the music. Yeah, to me, which helps others. And he’s come back. He’s living in a different way absolute living through my music. So here is I just read this segment because it is so, so emotional.
Brian Smith 23:32
At this point, Judy reads a passage from her book, beside me always. And I’ve decided to take that passage and move it to the end of the interview. Some of the descriptions that are pretty graphic and I’m afraid could be triggers for people who are newly into grief or some of us who may have discovered our child’s body after they passed. So what I wanted to do was to move that to the end. I think it’s very important. It’s very uplifting. I think for people that are ready for that. It does end on a note of hope. But I decided to move it to the end because I didn’t want to possibly trigger anybody. So stay to the very end if you want to hear the passage and I will add it in there. Meanwhile, I’m just going to continue with the conversation right after the break.
We’ll get back to grief to growth in just a few seconds. Did you know that Brian is an author and a life coach. If you’re grieving or know someone who is grieving his book, grief to growth is a best selling easy to read book that might help you or someone you know people work with Brian as a life coach to break through barriers and live their best lives. You can find out more about Brian and what he offers at www grief to growth.com www dot g ri e f the number two gr o w th comm or text growth gr o w t h 231996. If you’d like to support this podcast, visit WWE W patreon.com slash grief to growth www.pa t ar e yo n.com slash g ri e f, the number two gr o w th to make a financial contribution. And now back to grief to growth.
Brian Smith 25:19
Thanks. Thanks, Judy, for reading that that’s you captured really well there. You know, I can relate to pretty much everything you said. I think you captured it really well. And what I want to point out to people when they hear that, I don’t want anybody to think Well, I’ve got to wait seven years before things are gonna get better. Or, you know, everybody’s proof journey is unique. And and it depends on who we are the relationship we have with our child, it depends on what we what we do. You know, so there we can we all process things differently is what I want to say to people. So I don’t want anybody to get discouraged when they when they hear that that might be you know, you know, a very, very long time. So when did you When did you write that? You said that was pretty soon after Jason passed, right?
Judy Unger 26:05
No, no, I
Brian Smith 26:05
that was later. Yeah, yeah.
Judy Unger 26:07
Yeah. The story that I wrote was 18 years after his death. Yeah. It all came back. Yeah. Interesting. Because after I wrote the story, I felt differently. It was it. I was carrying all those details in here. And it was it was taking up space. Yeah, writing it down, suddenly, I could let it go.
Brian Smith 26:28
And I don’t want to put words in your mouth. But I want to ask you this. So feel free to correct me if I’m wrong. But it sounds like for a long time, you kind of suppressed your grief, you didn’t really express it. And then when you’re a parent, and this is very common to because it happened to me when my grandmother passed away. It was about three years later before another very emotional that triggered me to actually start processing it. So it sounds like that your parents that what you’re going to do the parents kind of triggered you to process what you’ve got there with Jason, is that right?
Judy Unger 26:58
I’m not sure how to describe it. I think I felt like I cried in tears. Like, there weren’t any tears left. It was like, I was done crying, and I was emptied out and I was tired. And that it suddenly occurred to me that I could survive. You know, survival just meant I always would grieve. I was always sad about his loss. But it wasn’t the forefront of my life. I wasn’t here and crying all the time. I was grateful for that. Because after many years of sitting in my car, and crying before I could get out and see my friends and pretend everything was fine. And I don’t think I was pushing it down. I actually reached a place I called zombie land. I had no feelings. And I think that’s a place where we don’t want to feel pain. So we choose not to feel anything. No pain, no joy flatline. And my parents had been a big support. So you are absolutely right. That was the trigger that Oh my God, my mother used to, you know, remember Jason with me. And now I’m losing her. And I don’t feel this connection to my husband, because we never shared our grief. And that was an issue for us, which is so common to, but I just I felt so alone in the world. Yeah. And then it’s like that space opened up after writing the story. And I became open. And what happened was a good friend had said to me, do you ever play your guitar anymore? And I like, Are you kidding? It’s in my closet for 30 years, you know? And one day, I just went in my closet and pulled it out. I was alone. And I What song did I play beside me always. I mean, I remember this song. And I started plants. And it was like, something came into me like his spiritual moment. Like I felt him. And then I went back and I played it the next day and hurt the way my fingers were really hurting. Yeah. And that was the beginning. That was it.
Brian Smith 28:54
That’s what happens. I think my thing is, I think grief has to be processed. I think it demands to be processed. And we can we can we can try to bypass it. We can try to stuff it down and it’ll sit there and then we’ll wait. But it’ll, but at some point, it’s going to come back until we until we invited in and go through it, you know, and yeah, there’s no way there’s no way around it. We have to we have to go through it. I remember as
Judy Unger 29:24
a as a leader, a person came into the support group. She had just gone off antidepressants. After five years. It was like it was her first day knowing her story.
Brian Smith 29:34
Yeah, you know, thing. antidepressants are interesting. You know, I’m not a medical doctor, I don’t get medical advice and people. Some people need to be on medication. So I always preface it with that. But I’ve been on antidepressants, and it’s what you described as Zombieland. And I realized I didn’t care about anything. I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t sad. I was just like flatline. So sometimes we need that in the early stages of grief for it and the shock and it’s overwhelming. We need that to zombie out but it Some point we’ve got to we’ve got to look in the eye and face it and go through it. And I think with you, if I remember correctly as I was listening through the lessons at one point, you said, You started doing hypnotherapy? I think that was 18 years. Right. Jason had passed away.
Judy Unger 30:16
Yeah, it was. It was interesting, because I did not feel that I could benefit from any kind of counseling. I tried going to a counselor, I’ve actually she was someone who had lost a child. But she seemed to be like a cheerleader. And she’s like, something good will come out of it. And I was like, Are you kidding me? I don’t want to hear that right now. Right. And I was done with her. And then of course, I tried a few other therapists. And if they had lost a child, what the hell did they know? You know, it turned out my best therapy was other parents. They know. And that was my Savior, anybody that had lost a child, not, you know, hugely close, but it could see them and they were those were the only people I wanted to be with. And it was a shock to me, when the leader of the compassionate friends group I was going to she had lost two children, which I can’t even begin to believe. He asked me if I could take over, I was not even one year into my grief. And I’m taking over a grief group. But all I did was sit there and let everybody tell their story. That’s what we do. Yeah, and I don’t,
Brian Smith 31:16
I don’t want to get in comparing groups. But I’m part of helping parents heal, as I said earlier, and I have never been part of compassionate friends. So I’ll preface it with that. But we strongly believe in talking about the continuity of life, and our children’s still being with us and celebrating our children. And I know for me, that’s made all the difference in the world. You see, my daughter is over my shoulder. Because I literally believe that she’s with me all the time. And she’s she’s inspired me to do what I do. And I was fortunate that I found this group, you know, only a few months after Shane, that passed away. And I think that helped me to process the grief and being around bereaved parents. I mean, like you said, we went, we had a conference. It’s been three years ago now. And we were at we were out in Scottsdale, Arizona, all his parents were together. And it was funny, because we were just having a great time. We’re laughing and your happy hour and the hotel, people walk through. It’s like, Who’s that group? It’s like, Well, those are the three parents. But it was just being around people that understood us. Where we could be ourselves. We could we could cry together. We could laugh together. And we could process like, what does this mean? What do I do with this? You know, so when someone tells you that hasn’t had a child pass, or something good is gonna come out of that she want to smack him in the face. You don’t want to hear that. When another parent tells you that that’s 10 years in, you know, then you say, Well, okay, maybe maybe they don’t maybe that can happen.
Judy Unger 32:37
Yeah, it makes me think about my song that, I guess you know, I don’t focus as much on the transition of the afterlife because I’m trying to just live in the present to get through the life that I have. Because I do know a lot of great parents where they’re just looking forward to dying to be Yeah, yes, but my song angel in the sky right away reminded me of your daughter. Because Shana means beautiful. And my mother used to call me Shana put them meaning beautiful face and the lyrics of that song or a dream about your sweet embrace your sparkling eyes, your beautiful face, and you are my angel in the sky like a butterfly, you flew away and couldn’t stay, we had to say goodbye, I still cry. So you must know I miss you. So my angel in the sky. And the second verse is a and when I die, you’ll take my hand, my lovely light, just not in sight. So I definitely believe that when I die, he’ll be right there to help me and be there to see him again.
Brian Smith 33:42
Yeah, and you made a really important point. We don’t want to live just to die. And and I and that’s a face that I’ve went through. And frankly, sometimes I’m still there, where I look forward to seeing my daughter, we have to live this life. We have things to do while we’re here. And I know. So we there has to be a balance, you know, but we can we can also get so caught up in this world. And you talk about this, and I forgot which one of your songs or which one of your lessons you talk about. It’s really important, though, is that, that always the absolutes that we say I will always be sad, I will never see you again. This is for fitness for return. I was talking with someone just the other day and they said, for eternity for the rest of my life. I will never see her again. And I’m like you just said two opposing things there. The rest of your life is not eternity. But that’s the way we feel we’re going through grief.
Judy Unger 34:35
Right? Love is forever. Right. That’s the part, the suffering. I mean, one of the things I often dealt with is, do I feel guilty to tell someone that I’m healed? What does that mean? I mean, healing represents a scar. I mean, I call it the amputation of my soul, the part that people can’t see that you’ve lost something there’s a sympathy for that. You carry it. And then the whole idea of healing is I’m not letting go of love. I’m letting go of the suffering and my son. He doesn’t want me to suffer. I mean, that’s a truism where you say, Oh, the person you’re grieving doesn’t want you to suffer. Well, that doesn’t take away the pain when your ends. But I wrote the story of healing and it was an image, I was in a prison of grief. And that was actually a term another brief person told me she says, I’m in a prison of grief, and there’s no escape. Yes. And you’re, you’re angry, like, what did I do to be in this prison? What is my crime, that I am in prisons, and there’s just like, No way else. And then, one day, I, I was able to leave that prison. And I kept going back, because I wanted the other prisoners to know they could lead to but I kept wondering how in the world did I leave the prison. And then I saw this image, it was my son, and his face was like a light. And he handed me the key. He wanted me to leave, he did not want me to live in a prison. He was giving me the key. And that I wrote a song about
Brian Smith 36:13
Yeah. And and I love that what you said there. And because it’s interesting, because as I’m listening to the course, I hear sometimes you say, grief, I’m over my grief for my grief is ended or grief ends. And then other times you talk about how we, you know, we are always in grief. And we talked about that before we get started. And I think it’s both that you said just so eloquent, right? Did the suffering can and that continual, terrible feeling, but we still missed them. I think he used this analogy in one of your songs or, and one of the lessons and it’s one I learned a long time ago, that when our loved one is ripped away from us, there’s like a hole in our heart. And it’s raw, and it’s painful. And that hole eventually scars over and it leaves scars. There’s still a hole. But I think you said the holes filled with love. That wasn’t one of your lessons, right? Yes.
Judy Unger 37:01
Yeah. Love is love is the key. I mean, yeah, it was love that got me surviving. Because I still loved my other children. I love my parents. I felt that that was the only reason to go on. Because there was no other point. Yeah, but I also had a concept from angel in the sky, which of course was very important that I still cry. It’s okay to cry. I still cry about my son. Does that mean that I’m still in deep grief? No, it’s acknowledging the feelings. And the healing is the part where I used to anticipate the day of his death. And his birthday, I mean, a birthday is even sadder than a death day, because are passing transition day. The the birthday represents the fact that he will never grow up, he’ll never get married, have children, even all the things that you wish for your child, that will not happen. But now I can, his birthday can come and I feel peaceful. And I remember him and I sing songs for him. And an angel in the sky, I came up with this concept Angel here on Earth. He’s in the sky, I’m honored. And by honoring his legacy he lives on his name is mentioned, he becomes alive to me. And it also means by helping other people. It’s a beautiful way to keep his memory alive.
Brian Smith 38:20
Absolutely. And I think that’s the balance that we talked about earlier. You know, we don’t want we don’t want to bypass, you know, this life, and just say, Okay, I’m just gonna wait till I die. And then I’ll see him again, right? He’s still here with me, I can still honor him while I’m here. And they and our loved ones, whether they’ve transition, whether it’s a parent or child, or, you know, spouse, or whatever it is, they don’t want us to be miserable. And sometimes we hold on to that misery because we think the pain is we confuse it with the love. And if we let go the pain then we’re letting go of the love.
Judy Unger 38:54
Brian Smith 38:56
So what I like to do is, let’s talk about the course because I want to explain to people what it is if we guess we haven’t explained it very well. So it’s, it’s 10 lessons. And each lesson is a song that Judy has written and she actually cites the lyrics or recites the lyrics. And then you talk about the meaning of them for you. So let’s go through just real quickly, maybe, you know, a couple minutes or 30 seconds or a minute on each song on each lesson. Sure. So the first one is so real.
Judy Unger 39:27
Yeah, the first line is this morning, I woke up and it slipped my mind that you’re not here with me anymore. And it’s about that shock where you wake up and you have this peaceful feeling like you still remember there you can call them and then all of a sudden, it hits you like a shock to your hearts. And again, the beauty of the healing for me is I look forward to waking up in the morning but for so many years, so many years. That was the worst part. I did not want to wake up. I didn’t want to wake up to face this. That’s what song is about.
Brian Smith 40:01
And every season.
Judy Unger 40:04
Well I talked about him when he died, the weather became cold, he died at the beginning of autumn. So every year when the season would change, the dead leaves were like his body crumbling into a pile of dust. It was just triggering the memories, but then the memories of summer is last summer on Earth. and spray it was like each seasonal change was so sad. And I it was my first song that I wrote as an adult woman, because I didn’t know I could write songs again. And there I was playing my guitar again. And this song came to me I could write a new song. And the lyrics were sad it was when you left from life, I withdrew. And a piece of my soul died to life and death are a mystery. And my sadness will always be every season, you come back to me. And you know, I thought I change it to and my love will always be and I tried to sing that. It didn’t feel authentic. So I left it, I left it because it’s a testimony to how I feel how I felt before I healed.
Brian Smith 41:11
I think it’s a part. I think that’s important. Because what I love about as I’ve gone through this, I can remember being in each one of these stages, and and it makes you feel less alone when you hear someone else singing your emotion. So I’m glad you left it the way it is. Beside me always. Well, I
Judy Unger 41:28
feel like that what I’ve covered. I mean, yeah, of course. But the main thing was, it’s so cool that I could write a book about this story. And it’s on. It’s on Amazon. And it’s also an audio book, which is very close to my heart. Because I have some recordings on there of Jason’s voice him and I conversing and yeah, yeah, so that song actually is what brought me inside time. Yeah.
Brian Smith 41:54
And you have recordings of his voice and one of the songs and one of the lessons. I love that
Judy Unger 42:00
book. I just say real quick. When I did the book, I had someone promoting it. And she says do a meditation album to go with the book. So I’ve never done meditation albums. So I did a meditation album. That’s how insight timer found me. So it’s just part of the story.
Brian Smith 42:14
Yeah, Hang on.
Judy Unger 42:17
Hang on was just about all the ways that I found to hang on. And I even say at the end, when I was grieving, I did all these things until the day I arrived, when I realized it can’t become easier to hang on. The sun started shining down and life became bearable. If you find yourself slipping, there are hands to hold you if you look for them, you are worth it. Don’t forget your loved one is folding into. I didn’t realize when I was making on. I thought it was it was the loneliest journey ever. It wasn’t till later that I realized that
Brian Smith 42:52
absolutely. set you free.
Judy Unger 42:55
Well, that was actually about letting go of my father. He was very sick when I wrote it. And it was I need to set you free. I hadn’t done it yet. It doesn’t express that I’ve done it’s like the struggle. And the words that brought me tears were your smile, your touch, your voice, your face, your essence, I will never replace. And that makes me cry, because that’s the part we feel that we’re going to lose. We’re going to forget how they smell how they sounded. And it does get harder, and you don’t want to let go of that. And at the same time, the pain is so great. But then when my parents both died, I sang that song to them as they were dying. And my mother, I finished the song. And I said I need to set you great. And her book her last breath. It was like so eerie. That song helped to set me free. Yeah,
Brian Smith 43:48
yeah. I just say when I when I heard I heard you’re saying the lyrics and I saw the lesson title. I was like, I don’t like this one. But I love how you tied it into your parents and studying there. That physical existence, you know, go free. Because for me, I’ll never let Shayna go free. So that’s just that’s just my my little thing there.
Judy Unger 44:07
I love the word essence. That’s the part. Yeah, yeah. Are there?
Brian Smith 44:11
Yeah, absolutely. It’s not forever.
Judy Unger 44:15
Well, I remember going to a Greek site where I had this lesson was one word for grief. And I mean, I have the list here. agony, anguish, eternal, alone, forever excruciating. It went on and on. But what was the most, most repeated word forever. So I thought, this is the song I’m going to write. And it was really, you say your pain will always be there. And every day is a nightmare. I remember so well, living with that kind of Hill. So that song was a change, because Hang on. I was so excited about healing from grief. I wanted to tell everyone you can do it. And I was a cheerleader. And I thought, you know, that’s not compassionate enough for me because I didn’t like it when people do that. To me in the early stages, I’m gonna write a different song. I remember so well when I was more like, I know what you’re going through, and then the whole thing, it’s not forever, it feels like it’s never going to change. You know? So that’s why that’s why I wrote the song.
Brian Smith 45:15
Yeah, that’s the thing that breaks my heart more than anything. When I’m talking to someone. When I hear that forever. It’s for it’s forever, I will never see them again. It’s always going to be this way. I will always feel this way. And you You’re right. It’s the hang on thing is is okay. But it’s like, but there’s hope. And, but it’s going to be for a little while, you know that there’s work to be done.
Judy Unger 45:37
The funniest part though, is the songs. I’m writing for others. For me, right. I was going through a really terrible divorce. And I kept listening to hang on. And that got me through it. My own song. It was like I was talking to myself.
Brian Smith 45:49
Yeah. Somewhere I can’t see.
Judy Unger 45:53
That was anticipatory. I, I was losing my mother now. And I decided, you know what? I hold on to the love and heals me. You’re not gone. You’re just somewhere I can’t see. I won’t drown in misery. Because your love rescues me. That’s the chorus. And it was just a way to tell myself, I can get through this group grief because I know they’re there. And I just can’t see them and their love is going to save me.
Brian Smith 46:21
Okay and clear.
Judy Unger 46:24
That was about finding clarity. And the biggest line in the song for me was the ending line. It’s never too late to turn your life around. No reason to wait. And the irony was I was waiting. I was terrified. I decided to end my marriage. And I didn’t know how to do it was horrible. And the whole thing about clear was, it was like beautiful music I could hear I opened my eyes, life became clear. The music was like clarity. Because I’m writing these lyrics that are like a script. It was bizarre. It was like there is my own song is telling me hang on. And it’s not forever. It was like, I better listen to my lyrics. So when I wrote that it’s never too late to turn your life around. And I was waiting. I thought I guess I better stop waiting and live. Thank God for my songs because I did write a song music saved me. Is that not true? Because if it hadn’t appeared, I might be in the same situation. The zombie lands.
Brian Smith 47:26
Yeah, my shining star.
Judy Unger 47:29
I love that one especially. It’s your breath, I feel you whisper in my ear to heal. That was about being alone and sad. And he’s there, you know, in my heart, you will stay I’ll hold on to our love forever. Every night. The stars above remind me of your love. It was just a song that that celebrated. Like he’s my shining star. He’s what I what I look to to get through every hard time.
Brian Smith 48:04
Awesome. And finally the key.
Judy Unger 48:08
That was the story I told about my prison of grace. And the revelation. It didn’t come till the very end of the song It says you came back to bring me the key. So here’s the the switch in every season, I said, and my sadness will always be every season, you come back to me. So I didn’t have a picture that he’s coming back to me every season. But a sad, sad picture. But the key is the evolution of healing because now it’s you came back to bring me the key. The key that allowed me to leave the prison. He didn’t come back. What a beautiful ending. Yeah,
Brian Smith 48:48
yeah, I love the arc. You know, it’s interesting, because I can see the arc and the songs. But also there’s hope, with the and within each song too. So there’s, you know, they start off, sad, and they and they can you can see more hope in each one. But there’s always some hope in it. And I love the way that you’ve laid it out. I was talking to you beforehand. You don’t include the actual songs in the lessons, and I’ll let you explain why.
Judy Unger 49:16
Oh, well, that’s because the lesson is just kept about 15 to 20 minutes. I figure if people want to hear the song, it’s available so they can look for the vocal Medley also have all of my course and all those songs and music on Bandcamp. But on insight timer, it’s free, and the course is free. So yeah, the best way to access the music. I mean, I have three songs that I love. Beside me always angel in the sky and my shining star that are just complete meditation versions that are about 20 minutes, and then I have them as a medley called heavenly healing meditation songs.
Brian Smith 49:55
I find that very spiritual. Awesome. Well, I want to tell people So if you get an insight timer, it’s a free app, you can download it to your iPhone or Android. There’s also the insight timer website. And I’ll put a link to the course in the show notes. Sure, but the course is called healing grief through mood music. So if you get insight timer, look for that. It’s by Judy Unger. Judy, if you want to find out more about her go to Judy Unger music calm it’s Judy. And it’s u n g r music.com. And there’ll be links to all the courts and you have a free course and insight timer, which is one that I’ve taken. And you also have a paid course if you’ve got the premium version of insight timer with more. And the other thing is the music that you songs that you use in the course are also available through insight timer for free. So look to the songs for the songs
Judy Unger 50:41
are also on. Some of them are on iTunes. I mean, I have on my blog, all my recordings for free as well on the Judy, younger music under song stories. It’s interesting because I’ve written 52 songs, somebody said to me, You have a full deck that actually, I have one for every week of the year. But I have enough songs to start another course. So the one that’s a paid course is called songs of healing and hope. And they’re not all grief songs. They’re songs about communication. I ended my marriage and, and all these songs about finding clarity, but I’m starting to write another course I don’t know what I’m going to name it, but I just go song by song, my Bible. It’s like each song has taught me something. Yeah, what you said about growth. I call my song song seeds. And I call my songs my song garden. those seeds were planted when I was young, and now I get to grow them. And you were talking about grief on your site about your berries. But who knows when you’re buried, what growth is going to come from that. And that’s reminds me of the butterfly. The grief is your darkness, you’re in a cocoon, and one day will emerge.
Brian Smith 51:48
And that’s a great point. And you know, it’s funny, I was just talking with someone the other day about the whole idea of about being in a cocoon, there’s a couple of things, you know that when the caterpillar goes in the cocoon, it takes patience, it takes a while for that Caterpillar to come out. So don’t rush your grief process. You know, and and God, it’s great that you after 18 years that Okay, now I’m going to start really processing my grief. But it’s still it takes us all a while. The other thing about a caterpillar, it would love that analogy. It’s a beautiful analogy, Caterpillar to a butterfly. But when the caterpillar crossing the into the cocoon, what people don’t realize it, it actually releases this digestive enzyme, and it becomes suit basically, it just just itself. So at some point in that process, it’s just a liquid mess. And that’s what we feel like when we’re going through grief. But we’ve got all the components, we need to rebuild ourselves and rebuild ourselves into something better. So when people say, am I ever going to be the same after my grief? I say I hope not. Because otherwise you’ve wasted all this pain. You’ve got to take this and make something out of it. No, that is so true. That is so true. Yeah, I
Judy Unger 52:54
think about the fact that people probably thought I had healed after 10 years. I mean, of course I I was coping, surviving. And this is the thing. I went from being a survivor of grief to healed and what was the difference? healing represents joy. But when I found joy through my music, that’s when I discovered healing. I didn’t know about it, and I had no idea that would ever happen. I did not believe I would ever. I mean, of course, yes, there’s laughter and this and that. But I mean, the joy of looking forward to waking up in the morning. And I think my appreciation for my life is so great, because I suffered so much. I’m so grateful that I don’t wake up with that pain that I can look forward to every day that there is such joy with my songs. And people will say, Oh, your music is so sad. But when my music makes me cry, that’s what heals me. It releases those tears. I wanted to make me cry. It has to be so beautiful, that it burrows into my heart and extracts those words, those words that help to heal me.
Brian Smith 54:04
Yeah. Well, you know, it’s interesting, because I remember after after Shayna passed away, and I was, you know, don’t listen to music every day, and I would take my walks. And I was thinking why do I like to listen to sad music, but I and I just just the other day I put on a song. I was like, I know this song is gonna make me cry. But there are times when you just need that you need that release. And then the music kind of takes those emotions that are that are tied up inside of you and brings them out.
Judy Unger 54:29
Exactly. I mean, I didn’t have music and I didn’t listen to music for all those years. I was grieving I call it. I was screaming in silence my hands. And I had that opera, replaying his death over and over.
Brian Smith 54:45
Yeah, what do you think? I want to thank you for putting your course out there and for making it available to all of us and I’ve already recommended it to people. I’m doing this podcast and recommend it to everybody that’s listening. If you’ve gone through any kind of a grief situation to get inside time or get the course go to Judy’s website and, and take advantage of it. You know, I appreciate you, you putting it out there.
Judy Unger 55:08
Yeah. And I think also what’s very cool now on insight timer are the live sessions. And I started doing them because it’s an opportunity for me to actually have a live session where I’m not reading a script I’ve written I work really hard to write these lessons. Now unlike you, this is why I had good practice with this today. I get to talk about the song and I play my guitar. I actually sing the song so then I can play beside me always. And I can sing to my son. It takes courage because I don’t think I’m you know, the Super Singer. But this is exactly what I want to be doing. I’m living my dream.
Brian Smith 55:44
Awesome. Awesome. Well, thanks, Judy, for being here and have brightens your day.
Judy Unger 55:48
I love looking at Shana, I want you to tell to tell you, it’s like there’s this light to the side of her face. And it sort of parallels you. And it’s lighting your face. And I can feel like she’s right here with us.
Brian Smith 56:04
Oh, yeah, she is she is absolutely thank
Judy Unger 56:06
you again. And to anybody listening. I just say never give up hope. Absolutely.
Brian Smith 56:15
And now, here’s a passage from beside me always by Judy Unger.
Judy Unger 56:21
When I say the opera began, I am describing my torture thought process during bereavement. It took at least 10 years before the opera of Jason’s death stopped. I would describe the opera as those last moments before the curtain dropped, and I touched my dead child. Those events played out in a looping format for me every day for years, I relive the last moments of my son’s life over and over again. It was truly the only way that something is unbelievable as his death could eventually be accepted. After Jason had his heart surgery, I went home because he was alive and I could collapse. I told my husband I would he would be there and I would stay with our younger son. I came home passed out on the bed with my baby, my two year old in the darkness. Suddenly I woke up and I see wave of dread came over me that sent chills throughout my body. I had a pit in my stomach that was deeper than anything I’d ever experienced. in terror, I will myself to stay calm. My fear only increased with the jarring sound of the telephone. The voice on the other end said I needed to come to the hospital right away. She said my son was not doing very well. I found out later Jason had already died when that call was made. I experienced the worst panic attack of my life. I could not stop shaking. My heart pounded loudly I could not hear or think where the hell wear my shoes, my role my glasses, my keys. I woke up my younger son and shrieked as I brought him to this babysitter. The drive to the hospital was the longest drive of my life. I thought I was having my head explode. My heart was pounding and pounding. I ran through hallways, I couldn’t remember where the pediatric intensive care unit was. Suddenly I saw my husband at the end of the hallway. He was running towards me crying loudly. He saw a piece gone. I started screaming we we were all screaming and crying so loudly because the unthinkable that happens. There was no way for me to have prepared myself for this. My husband was always shy and discreet. I had never seen him cry before our sobs and Wales went on and on. The surgeon came to see us she was crying too. I dismissed her go away. I decided I didn’t have to listen to any more medical jargon about cardiac abnormalities ever again. We were told we had to wait they needed to fix our child up in order for us to see him. It was soon time for me to go in and facing that. My son would be the first dead person I had ever seen in my life.
I could not see his freckles because his face was frosty white. The most shocking part was his blackened lips. His eyes were open, unforgettable, lifeless and empty. I will never forget those eyes for the rest of my life. Only the night before. Those same eyes were intelligence sparkling with joy and laughter. There was no question he was gone. And this was only a course. He felt so cold. I held on to him as long as I could. I cried and cried. And so the bereavements period of my life began and Opera In my mind over and over, it had no melody or music. It was endless and it went on and on for me. Well, life continued for everyone and everyone else around me. I collapsed in shock. What about my continued existence? I wanted to be with my son. I wanted to be dead. Where have you gone? He needed me so much. How could it be possible that he didn’t need me anymore? It didn’t seem possible. I went to those places over and over again. He’s cold, he’s hungry. He’s scared. He’s alone. He needs me. The truth was that I needed him. I had been his caregiver. And I didn’t know what I was supposed to do. I went home and into his bedroom and covered my head with his pillow, the one that still had his odor on it. I cried enough tears to Bill an ocean. Why was I still alive? This was too much pain to possibly live with. books have been written about the stages of grief. I have lived all of those stages. The numbness was bizarre, there was no sense of time. Eating, sleeping living, seemed outside the realm of what it once was. There was no purpose for anything anymore. There was no way to control the endless parade of intensely painful, repetitive thoughts. I looked at the sky. Could he be there? I looked at a bird at a butterfly. Could he be visiting me? I strained to hear his voice again. Was he calling for his mommy. There was no color in the world anywhere. There was nothing but Shades of Grey. Within a day the weather became cold. I felt the season changed on the very day he died on October 6. Life continued for everyone and everything else around me, it did not seem possible that it could get any worse. It did not seem possible that it could get any better. It was what it was empty, sad, excruciating, endless. When I finally connected with other bereaved parents, we all agreed about such things as it was much harder in six months than the day it happens. Six months mark the absolute lowest moments. It’s six months, the support was gone. Everyone expected me to get on with my life. It was time to just get over it. At six months, the shock was just starting to wear off. And the painful reality was only just beginning. The first year was extremely painful. Every event was the first, the first Mother’s Day The first birthday. It was horrible. Much I wasn’t there to celebrate it. And then the second year was worse than the first year. I believed i’d survived the first year but it wasn’t getting any easier. It was discouraging. It felt like life as I knew it was not worth living anymore. There was truly no hope of getting better. I met another bereaved mother once and she said to me, it took me about seven years and seven years the agony will subside and you will definitely start feeling a little better. Well, she was right about that. In those agonizing years, I raised my other children, I had to get used to the idea of not taking care of Jason anymore. I had done it so well for five years. I didn’t know how to stop suddenly.
I was always proud of my survival, and I considered it My greatest achievements. But As the years passed, I felt like I was wounded and damaged. I seldom mentioned migraine. And I just learned that being angry, isolated me and led to further loneliness. One day I decided surviving wasn’t enough for me anymore. I expressed my honest feelings through writing and music, and I unburden my soul. I never realized how much energy was required to hold everything in. I believed I was incapable of happiness, after suffering the loss of what I had so deeply loved. I thought the best times in life were behind me. But I’m so grateful because I don’t feel that way anymore.
Brian Smith 1:04:32
That’s it for another episode of grief to growth. I sure hope you got something out of it. Please stay in contact with me by reaching out at www grief to growth.com that’s grief, the number two growth.com or you can text the word growth to 31996. That’s simply text growth gr o w t h 231996. So if you’re watching this on YouTube, please make sure you subscribe so that the subs scribe button and then hit the little bell here and it’ll notify you when I have new content. Always please share the information if you enjoy it that helps me to get more views and get the message out to more people. Thanks a lot and have a wonderful day.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai