A woman looking very tired approaches me in the long line to get her book signed. Her girlfriend is at her side—with her arm wrapped tightly around the exhausted woman’s waist. The girlfriend tells me that this woman just lost her young son to cancer.

She’s not doing well, says the friend. “Can you see her child’s spirit?” she asks.

Yes, I sense him. He’s a bright, dancing sprite beside her, silly and giggling— pulling on her arm. But she’s defeated and heavy of heart and can’t feel it. I sense she may have a drug numbing her, a drug given by a kind doctor meaning to help. But the drug (probably prescribed for depression) prevents her from feeling her beautiful boy dancing beside her; instead, she only feels a light breeze against her skin and dismisses it.

How can I help her see him? I tell her that he’s fine and happy and dances beside her and wants her to be happy. I ask her to close her eyes with me for a moment and feel his energy. We hold hands in silence. I can feel her son’s energy acting up—jumping around us. He says, “Mom, I’m here. I’m fine.” She smiles at me briefly and there are tears in her eyes. “I think I can feel him,” she says. “But I’ve never believed in an afterlife…”

I explain that this grief is her moment of spiritual reawakening. I tell her to sit in quiet meditation every morning and ask to feel her child’s presence. I tell her to speak to him directly during her meditation and write down any thoughts or images that come to her. If she does this, I explain, it will bring her own spirit back to life. She’ll know beyond any doubt that her boy is happy and well. She tells me she’ll do it.

Because of her heavy heart, I pray she’ll make the effort. A huge part of her doesn’t really believe her little boy lives on—even as he tugs at her sleeve. She has spent most of her life dismissing her higher self and intuition, and being cynical. She’s in a deep spiritual crisis now. Her departed son is fine—shining in the light like a little Buddha beside her—wanting so desperately for Mom to feel better. But Mom must do the work of reawakening to her higher self.

It’s her soul that’s sleeping, not her little boy’s. It’s time for her to remember who she is and why she’s here. Her son’s departure is meant to inspire this spiritual reawakening. This is the soul mate agreement she made with her son long before this lifetime began. As she languishes in pain, she misses the point, misunderstands the agreement, and makes her journey more difficult.

I tell her to email me about her progress. A year later, I hear from her. She says that after months of languishing in grief, she began to meditate. She tells me it has been miraculous—that she can hear her son’s voice when she sits and quiets her mind. And this experience, she says, has launched her life in a new and hopeful direction.

We are the ones who die when we grieve our loved ones. The departed pray for our pain to go away, for us to realize that it’s all on purpose, and that we can join them as soon as we fulfill our mission here, and help ease the pain of others.