My father died the morning of my wedding.

It happened almost one year after my mother had died, on a cool December morning. The fact that his death followed a long illness and a quick and steep decline, didn’t make it much easier.  A little, but it was still my dad and he wouldn’t be “giving me away”.

Why am I sharing this story?  Because what happened next changed EVERYTHING.

I had gone for a run that morning and when I returned home, my sister, several family members and my husband-to-be, were all standing in my driveway. I knew. But I didn’t want to believe…  I looked at my sister, terrified.  Please, NO.

She started to cry and said, “Oh, Jillie, I’m so sorry.”  I collapsed.  My soon-to-be-husband, picked me up and practically carried me to the backyard.  What he said next instantly changed everything.  I went from devastation to near elation. From deep sadness to joy.

It was the first time I experienced the miracle of a counseling tool known as “reframing”.

He took my face in his hands and said, “Jill, now your mom and dad can be together at the wedding.”

Instantly, it all seemed right.  Daddy had been in a wheelchair for four years since a stroke and he was suffering. And I know he deeply missed my mother, his beloved wife of 63 years.

Now, he would be with her at the wedding, looking down and smiling.  They’d be hugging and holding each other.  I could picture them together and it genuinely made me happy. (They are pictured here.)

And my dad would be free of the wheelchair and his suffering.   Known as “the Colonel”, this retired air force officer was always brave, strong and proud.  He’d be that way again.

Same event. Different meaning. And that’s how reframing works.  It takes an event or a memory and helps the person suffering change the meaning they give to it.

The event didn’t change – my father still passed away. I would still miss him. But now I could also be happy to imagine him with my mother, his wife, together, both of them free from pain.  Same event. Different meaning.  Completely different thoughts, emotions and behavior.  Instantly.

I use narrative therapy and reframing in my therapy practice, along with other tools, because I have experienced the transformative power personally.  I would love to help you if there is something that is hurting or plaguing you.


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