A part of my new vision with #Break Free -Trauma to Triumph Movement is to invite guests who have a story of rising beyond tragedy and creating a healing and joyful life. I am excited to
learn from Bert Pope, the founder of the Awesome Company, as he shares his personal story of loss and grief to creating his vision of the healing power of a kind act.
Bert’s story is someone who has gone through the refiner’s fire and who’s captured experiences, lessons, and insights that make him and his children role models and icons we can learn from, and also, apply these lessons in our hard times. One definition of kindness I heard, which, resonates with Bert’s journey comes from Piero Ferrucci, an Italian philosopher and practicing psychotherapist. Piero defines kindness as a power that is a “strong, genuine, warm way of being.” Its power and sole incentive is “the desire to help, the pleasure of being generous and attentive to other people’s lives.”
Bert’s story begins with his tragedy and ends with the healing balm of kindness. First, he and his children being recipients to the kind act of others, and then, being the kindness toward others. Bert shares his story, “I had a tragic event that happened in late 2016, where my wife Jill, she died in an automobile crash.” She was brain dead…(We) had four children at the time… under 10 years old.”
Loss of this magnitude is paralyzing as time seems to stop and the shock crowds the mind with denial and confusion. Fortunately, Bert was not alone in this crisis. He shares how strangers, professionals, friends, and family stepped forward presenting an extended hand wherever he needed, he emphases, “I don’t know how you define it, but they gave me a good navigation of how to work with my children to navigate that time. It was tough, of course, for all of us…but
they helped me through understanding how to talk with my children.”
Bert’s willingness to be transparent and receptive opened the way to receive the gifts of kind wisdom from others. He continues, “And I think that’s an important part to share…they told me they said don’t use the word ‘go to sleep’ or trying to candy coat the situation because it is not helpful.” As in dealing with any trauma, hence massive or unexpected change in life, presenting the facts with assurance of the ability to move on, is imperative in mastering life beyond it. Bert continues, “When you do that (tell them) you need to define it and define it clear, be very truthful with the children.”
Bert offers insight to the complexity of his situation, “…one of the things that they also educated me on was that I can’t make any promises of me being around. And the first question from my four-year-old, after I said that mommy had died, was…’ okay, well what happens if you go?’. And it was very quiet, and I said, “look we have auntie and uncle, which, are your godfather and godmother for the family. They would instantly move in with you and take care of you, but you know what, there’s always auntie and uncle and auntie and uncle and auntie and uncle. We have all these friends, you will never not be a left, you will never be alone.” The outreach and presence of others let them know they would always have a foundation under them, and this proved to be the fundamental belief, in which, helped pole vault Bert forward with his vision. He continued, “…because their foundation had just been rocked, that is one of the things that helped me navigate through those circumstances.”
The power of kindness is its magic of developing character traits of truth along with the awareness of being present with others. In this case, Bert teaching his children in the following steps, “so,I was able to share with them, ‘mommy has been in an accident and she may die.’” This distant step was to help prepare his children in comprehending the loss ahead of them. He proceeded…” the second communication was, ‘Mommy, you know, she is going to die.’ And then at the end, ‘mommy has died.’” This three-fold process offered an opportunity to absorb, console and support one another.
American psychiatrist, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, first introduced the five stages of grief as being the path we all trek in loss, namely; denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Yet, according to psychologytoday.com, grief can be more complex and may not obey any formula nor have any set expiration date. This important area of ongoing research continues.
Bert recognized he had his grief to process as his wife was not coming back. His misery, emptiness and constant void were still percolating through him. Sharing he states, “Well, you know, depression is an interesting old buddy…it is something that can absolutely suck all the oxygen out of the room, and it’ll give a weight upon you like you can’t breathe… I felt that weight upon me, that was suffocating that I could clearly see.” As experienced by many, Bert notes how his despair deepened before he felt better, “And I had moments of where there was a contemplation of suicide…. It was never actionable or anything like that, but I could understand…” Yet, knowing he was not alone and could lean on the kindness of others, Bert gave himself permission to work through his own grief. Bert clarified, “I have to say my process and the thing that I appreciate about being proud of myself is the fact that I purged myself and I cried like a baby. And I had no problem with doing that. And I purged myself every time I got the chance and especially in front of my kids, so they could see that I was sad. And it’s okay to be sad. And it’s okay to purge yourself and let that out. I think it’s so important to not allow things to bottle up and to release that, which is, which is how you feel.”
Again this refiner’s fire, formed a foundation of conviction and strength, which, offered Bert and his children a launching pad from in this unwanted transition. Bert concurs, “But the amazing thing that gave me the power and empowered me was the appreciation for all the love that was shown to us. And the feeling of that beautiful love that was given to us during that difficult time. And my children and I, throughout the months after being able to give to others also, and seeing the generosity that we were able to do was an empowerment that was ten times.”
It’s apparent that the power of kindness from others was having a direct impact on Bert and his children’s grief. Bert notes, “the way that you can get up and out of that crappy feeling is to gift someone of your time and effort, and be generous to another, and show that generosity to somebody else. It’s the feeling of empowerment that you get from the giving of yourself and your time and whatever, that you feel empowered.” This BE-ing is the character of kindness where the power of healing occurs. And this has led to Bert and his children creating the Awesome Company, the game of social networking to give others kindness. “Its full dedication is to create platforms to be able to predicate more positivity.”
The law of opposition is life. We don’t escape it. Yet in today’s world, we are bombarded with immediate gratification, deflections, and escapism. Unfortunately, this causes us to by-pass the lessons gained from delay of gratification, sacrifice and leaning on one another’s kindness.
Bert’s story reminds us there is value in embracing these very lessons. In turn, these lessons offer hope and a means of going forward in a healing way. Bert’s journey and chosen destination is a great example of this as he applied his tenacity and perseverance to his vision.
As is essential in all our evolution from trauma, healing is not an option. How to get there is. As research has concluded so far, there is no one way to find wholeness after a fracture or complete break. Yet, coming together as a community, leaning on one another in our time of need and then extending a kind hand and heart toward helping another may be more of the answer than not.
Bert’s heart opened in an awesome way as he shares, “So we created awesome, which is awesome.one, the app, to engage in awesome.” He elaborates, “(It’s a) social network, where you’re sharing the most awesome of all the awesome people that you have…” He points out that by engaging in positivity and recording an act of kindness, it becomes a contagious game of spreading happy. His conclusion, “It just takes one act of kindness to make the world a better place. And that ripple effect that happens after is amazing. It’s just amazing. It’s powerful, and it’s magical.”
Bert’s answer to my last question, of how his app awesome.one impacted his family, “Oh, my goodness, let me tell you, we have one of the fun kindness challenges called parking meter fairy. And this is where you…go and put coins in the expired parking meters for the folks that could possibly get a ticket…We actually dressed up my now seven-year-old daughter and she dressed up as a fairy and she had a magic wand. And so, I filmed her going up and down…she would go and put coins in and doing her little magic wand on the parking meters and fill out the parking meters there were expired… We didn’t know we were saving them from a ticket but (had) a good time doing it.”
He continues sharing the moment by moment benefits, “You know, we can’t help but smile…even smiling…it kicks endorphins in and we’re happier. I think it’s important to note how Bert started from a place of truth, by being open and transparent, he was receptive to the kindness of others and teachable. Unlike so many, who stay stuck in their pain and lose sight on how to be transparent, Bert’s example is such a gift to everybody.
Well, how do you get from trauma to triumph? I think it’s been stated well here, you start with a heart open to the power of kindness, continue forward with authenticity, transparency, and love. This, I say, is triumphant!