Deep Water What?

Deep Water What?

So, I have published two books now and they both have “Deep Water Leaf” in the title.

Wait. Deep Water What?

What in the world is a “deep water leaf”?

That’s exactly what I set out to answer in my newest book, Fallen – The Adventures of a Deep Water Leaf.

Believe me, the answer has been years in coming – decades even.

It began with a dream I had in 1997 (20 years ago! how can that be?).

In my dream, my four month old baby has died. I am distraught, inconsolable, raw with grief. At the memorial service for the child, a gift of a spiritual insight is given to me, planted like a seed in my mind. “You will create the Deep Water Leaf Society, and by doing so you will heal your pain and the pain of many others.” Somehow, that simple message gives me peace within the dream.

But I awakened in the morning feeling deeply disturbed, with tears streaming down my face. I didn’t know what the death of this four month old dream baby might represent. None of my own children were still babies. But my oldest child, 19 at the time, was born in April, the fourth month of the year. And he was the kind of kid I worried about constantly. I hoped the dream wasn’t some kind of omen.

Seven years later, in 2004, my son, my fourth month baby, died at age 26.

Working through my grief, the dream came back to me. And that phrase, “deep water leaf”. I had been told in the dream it was the key to healing. But what did it mean, exactly? Over the course of the two years following my son’s death, I experienced the most amazing journey of healing and awakening – filled with experiences that opened me to greater dimensions than this 4D world of time and space. This journey is chronicled in my first book, The Deep Water Leaf Society. I named it that because the story it told was of my own healing and awakening – and I hoped it might help others to heal as well. Others in that society of those who’ve known deep grief. It seemed like that was what the long ago dream had been talking about.

And yet.

It still didn’t explain the meaning of the phrase, “deep water leaf”. And that question stayed with me over the years. What exactly is a deep water leaf?

Illustration of a leaf floating on the water

Slowly, like a slow growing tree, a fairy tale began to unfold in my mind. The story of a little leaf that falls from a big, big tree into a watery world she does not understand. And her answers are not to be found on the surface, but only in The Deep.

For a long time, the basic premise raised more questions than it answered. Little glimmers sifted through my brain like sunlight through the leaves of a tree. Animal characters appeared in my dreams and in my journaling. Little tidbits of insight, but nothing coherent. And then, suddenly, over the course of a weekend writing retreat, it all came together. The arc of the story line, the main players, a clear beginning, middle and end. It was a bare bones story, but it was complete. And it was “downloaded” more than written by me.

Over the course of the following year, I fleshed out the characters, filled in the gaps in the story line, revised and edited. Oh, and I learned how to draw so I could illustrate the story.

So what is a “deep water leaf”? It’s someone who’s learned to dive deep and dream true. Someone who has awakened and remembered who they really are.

And how does someone become a “deep water leaf”?

No spoilers here. You’ll have to read the story to find out.









Is Emotional Pain Necessary?

Is Emotional Pain Necessary?

This is the question posed by today’s NPR piece, which talks about a recent change in the American Psychiatric Association’s new Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM. The proposal is to remove the “bereavement exclusion” from the guidelines for diagnosing major depression. In other words, if one’s grief is severe and lasts too long, it should be treated like depression. How long is too long? In the words of the article:

“ . . . if symptoms like these [acute upset, loss of sleep, appetite, energy and concentration] persist for more than two weeks, the bereaved person will be considered to have a mental disorder: major depression. And treatment, either therapy or medication, is recommended.”


Are we, as a culture, so afraid of feeling the depths of our emotion that we would choose to medicate the pain of grief as soon as two weeks out from a major loss? It seems ludicrous to me.

After losing my son six years ago, my journey of grief (which I chronicle in my award-winning book The Deep Water Leaf Society) took at least TWO YEARS and in many ways continues even today. Were there days that I would have liked to take a pill and make the pain stop? Yes. And if I had, would I have learned and experienced all that I did and healed so completely? I think not. For me expressive arts, journaling and dreamwork allowed me to honor my pain, learn from it and heal by moving headlong into my pain, not running away from it.

It is the conscious journey through our grief that creates healing. In my opinion, if you stuff it down, ignore it, drown it in alcohol or happy it up with Prozac you will miss the meaning, the lessons, the growth that come from being real about how it feels. I learned more about myself and let go of more useless baggage during those two years of healing than I had in my entire life up to that point. I am a better person because of my loss and because of the very real pain it caused. Had I numbed the pain with Prozac, I know my loss would not have created the same level of positive personal transformation.

I am reminded of Kirk in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. When the mysterious mystic Syvok wants to take away everyone’s pain, Kirk is the only hold-out while everyone else is all silly with nirvanic joy. “Damn it, Bones,” says Kirk, “you’re a doctor. You know that pain and guilt can’t be taken away with a wave of a magic wand. They’re the things we carry with us, the things that make us who we are. If we lose them, we lose ourselves. I don’t want my pain taken away! I need my pain!”

I’m with Kirk on this one.

It’s not that we should choose to live in the depths of that pain permanently. And certainly if someone becomes suicidal or is completely unable to function for long periods of time there may be some call for intervention. But to put an arbitrary timeframe on how long it should take to process the pain of grief is ridiculous.

TWO WEEKS?!!! I don’t think it’s we grievers who have a mental disorder. I think the authors of the DSM should have their own heads examined!