In this week’s bonus episode, Robert speaks candidly to his long-time friend, fellow author, survivor, philanthropist, and therapist, Dr. Ken Druck. Ken lost his oldest daughter at a young age, entering him into a period of the dark night of the soul. Robert experienced his own version of hell as he battled back over a 10 year period from severe reactions to the medication from a kidney transplant. Their conversation centers on their experiences and on creating grief literacy for others facing dark moments. Learning how to embrace these moments with the most self-compassion and human authenticity as possible is their focus. And then guiding us on how to transform our suffering and growth into a benefit for our communities at large, in whatever ways are possible for us. How to sensitize ourselves in this direction is a central theme. Ken offers his “6 Honorings,” or guideposts of how to go on after enduring life’s most difficult challenges. In this conversation, Robert and Ken share their bond to each other and their commitment to being an influence in the world for good, because no matter what your pain is, you can embrace it and use it for a catalyst, to both care for it and the world.
Note: Below, you’ll find timecodes for specific sections of the podcast. To get the most value out of the podcast, I encourage you to listen to the complete episode. However, there are times when you want to skip ahead or repeat a particular section. By clicking on the timecode, you’ll be able to jump to that specific section of the podcast
The Missing Conversation, Bonus Episode 3.
Ken Druck: (00:03)
You know, I love my grandkids and I want to pay everything all the blessings of my life and any abundance, anything that, that I have to give, I wanna give it to them, but realizing that the way, one of the ways I can give it to them is to give it to the world, the world that they’re gonna have to live in.
On this podcast, we will propose critical new strategies to address world issues, including homelessness, immigration, amongst several others, and making a connection to how our individual psychology contributes and can help transform the dangers that we face. We will break from additional thinking, as we look at our challenges from a freer and more independent point of view, your host Robert Strock has had 45 years of experience as a psychotherapist, author, and humanitarian, and has developed a unique approach to communication, contemplation and inquiry born from working on his own challenges.
Robert Strock: (01:01)
A very warm welcome again to The Missing Conversation where we do our damnedest to address the most pressing issues that the world’s facing today and where we look for the most practical, inspiring programs, innovative ideas, and people to support survival on our planet. Today, we have a guest that exemplifies someone who’s lived a life that I would really say expresses so much of the essence of a psycho-political life in his relationship to the world, and has a very interesting background and has made personal and global choices throughout his life. When we add other great options that lead me to feel honored to have him on our show today, Dr. Ken Druck is a best-selling author, executive coach, consultant, and internationally known thought leader, who’s helped countless individuals, families, organizations, and communities turn their greatest losses and challenges into opportunities for becoming the best version of themselves.
Robert Strock: (02:20)
He’s the recipient of the prestigious distinguished contribution to psychology award. Ken has inspired and guided his clients, readers, audiences, and the general public for over 45 years. His work in healing after loss, parenting, civility, and aging, through his books, The Secrets Men Keep, Healing Your Life, After the loss of a Loved One, the Real Rules of Life, and Courageous Aging have helped shape our world views. To honor his daughter, Jenna, Ken founded the Jenna Drug Center in 1996. The center’s award-winning Families Helping Families Program assisted those who lost loved ones at 9/11, Sandy Hook, and Columbine. Just to mention a few of the great impact places that all of us know, needed an infinity of, of help. Ken speaks for distinguished audiences, including the Harvard School of Public Health, the United Nations, and YPO. And his work is featured regularly on CNN and PBS specials, in top newspapers and social media sites. Ken lives in San Diego where he is a community leader and maintains a coaching consulting practice. And I’m also proud to say that he’s one of my very dearest, closest friends and has been for, uh, let’s say a length of time that would age us.
Robert Strock: (04:19)
Welcome Ken, my dear friend.
Ken Druck: (04:21)
Thank you, Robert. My, my friend, my colleague, turned friend turned brother.
Robert Strock: (04:28)
Indeed, indeed. So, I’d like to start off just giving a brief overview as to what really the essence of it is. So, we have a better sense of what this whole series is. And also a big part of who Ken is.
Robert Strock: (04:43)
We’re gonna have a big meal and you’re gonna set the table. I’m hungry.
Robert Strock: (04:47)
Good, good. I’m, I’m uh, I’m going eat with you. So, psycho-politics really comes from a place of, it’s really natural, really natural that we wanna love our families. And that’s a sacred ideal. However, we’re at a time where if we just love our families, and everyone just loves their families, let’s say 98 or 99% and gives 1 or 2% to the world. And to those that are really suffering, it creates an us and them. And the wealth stays for those that are wealthy and a compartment, and the poverty stays in another compartment. And we have the perfect conditions for world war, for war, for alienation, for terrorism, for global warming. And so, psychologically it’s an encouragement to increase the percentage that each of us reaches out to the world, both in a global warming sense and in a sense of giving energy to those that are in need throughout the world.
Robert Strock: (05:58)
The second part of psycho-politics relates to the same thing as that with money and looking at again that 98, 99% that we give to our family, pass it on. Maybe, maybe some people it’s more than that, of course, but some people it’s less than that. And again, looking at our relationship to money and seeing does it make sense when the world is so imperiled to not give a greater percentage of our money toward those need and toward a planet that is really suffering. And the third and last part of psycho-politics is these questions of what’s the balance between taking care of my family and taking care of the poor and taking care of our planet. What is that balance? Asking that question for the rest of our lives, asking it in a very personal way and it doesn’t matter what scale you’re in, because a smile matters, a good vibe with the clerk at the store matters, and giving your best attitude. If you’re in a survival struggle to do the best you can to survive with dignity, it all matters. It’s all reaching beyond the us and the them. So Ken, I’d really like to ask you, what were you raised to believe in and what emotional atmosphere did you come from and give a sense of how that formed, whether it was, uh, expanding from that, or let us know a little bit about your background.
Ken Druck: (07:41)
I’m gonna let you know that in a minute, but, but I just, I am so inspired and touched by what you just said, that I, that I have to comment, Robert, you know, the three things that you just pointed out, the heart and soul of psycho- politics is, is, is we are at that inflection point, you know, is it us and them, or is it all of us? Are, are we ready to evolve to that awareness? That it’s all of us that we can love that both we can have. It’s not either/or it’s both and we can love our family. We can, we can also embrace the enormity, the bigger picture, because it’s gonna be all of us or none of us in the way that we’re now operating. We are at that inflection point. And then you talk about pay it forward.
Ken Druck: (08:36)
You know, here I become a grandpa, as you know, we’ll get into that later. So when, when we realize that that it’s not either/or, it’s both end, you know, I love my grandkids and I want to pay everything, all the blessings of my life and any abundance, anything that, that I have to give, I wanna give it to them. But realizing that the way one of the ways I can give it to them is to give it to the world, the world that they’re gonna have to live in. And the world that I pray affords them the blessings, the gifts, the freedom, the opportunities, the miracles, and wonder of, of living this life that will afford them that, rather than affording them a world in which they are terrified, intimidated, they’re living in a war zone from the time that they’re young boys.
Robert Strock: (09:26)
So, and the third thing, the balance of how we, bal, that’s, you know, you describe my life, how do we, you know, how do we balance the caregiving, the attention, the, the, the energy, the resources that we lend to, to our family, to our beloveds, the people in that inner circle with looking out at the world, and again, realizing that the way we can love our families, and our kids, and our grandkids is to be more loving in the world. And, and there’s a great poem, Robert, I know I’m jumping way ahead, you know, you have been my dear friend and brother and my confidant in my dark night of the soul moment when Jenna died, when my oldest daughter died. And one of the poems that I received, it was amazing. And I’ll send it to you. But the poem said it was a, it was a poem that somebody sent me and it was the voice of the person who had died saying, what are you gonna do? Well, here’s what you’re gonna do. Take the love that you have for me and give it to the world because that’s how I will receive it, now I’m not a phone call or a bank account or a, you know, a visit away. There’s nothing you can give me that you have, but, but you can give, if you give that love to the world, you will have given it to me. So, I just had to say that, and then I’m gonna get back to your question, like a good boy.
Robert Strock: (11:01)
Before you get back to your question, you know, this is who Ken has been, that, that, that’s why, why you are so articulate and why I love you. Uh it’s like, and if there’s anyone who is family love and then expands beyond that, you are so a combination of those two. So, thank you. Go ahead.
Ken Druck: (11:24)
Thank you, brother. And, and as one of my adopted, spiritually adopted family members, you know, I, I hope you feel that as well. And, and you inviting me to share your living room on, on this conversation is, is one of the ways that I feel love, you know, you asked me about, you know, what I was raised to believe in, here I, I, you know, I dropped into history. We’re the people of each other’s time. And each one of us gets to think about where did we drop into history? What year was that? 1949 for me? Oh my God. You know, I was named for my grandfather’s brother, my uncle Castile, who was a prominent Vienna attorney, who was one of the first people to speak out against Hitler and who was one of the first people to get killed, murdered, because he did, that’s who I was named for.
Ken Druck: (12:19)
And here I am the child of, of a family, an extended family that was trying to settle into, came through Ellis Island, and was trying to settle in New York. So, you know, from age one or two years old, I was watching the room. You know, I, my God, there was so much stuff going on. There were feelings, there were people angry and disgruntled and, you know, and trying to make their way and feel like they belonged in this country. They had a place and a future. And, uh, there was such that, that level of insecurity and, and wanting a sense of belongingness and safety. So, I was watching the room. So how it affected me was I learned to be a room watcher. You know, I developed the sensitivities of what it took to survive and not to become part of the problem, the anger and the sadness and the fear that was in the room. But to be some, whatever it meant to be part of the solution, you know, and not, not the class clown necessarily not distracting and avoiding, but to be, to be kind of a loving presence and a listening presence and a healing presence.
Ken Druck: (13:29)
So people ask me, uh, you know, how long have you been, were you a psychologist? And it’s like, first of all, I’m a recovering psychologist. Second of all, um, you know, it, I started at age two or one, you know, and I, because I, I sensed what was happening in the room, but raised by a mother who championed social justice and, and equality and lived that, had a tremendous influence on me, the way she lived walking through life with her, and the way she reacted. She was part of the, you know, the associa, the national association for Christians and Jews, she was looking for bridges. You know, you, you’ve created this beautiful Global Bridge. My mother creating bridges between Christians and Jews in New York in 1949 and 50 and 55. And, you know, as this country began to ripen into, in, in, you know, and try to transcend or cover over what, what now has been out fully outed, you know, the racism, the, the misogyny, the gender-based issues, the sexual identity issues, the political polarization issues.
Ken Druck: (14:45)
I recently wrote an article called, “It’s Still in the Family,” you know, because families now are tearing apart the way when we used to watch, uh, Norman, my friend, Norman Lear’s brilliant, “All in the Family,” families now are going through the next generation of All in the Family. So those are the things that influenced me most. And I know, you know, you and I have shared, you know, what was it like, you and I’ve had a fascinating conversation over the years when our moms were alive. And we talked about how our moms, who they were, impacted our lives and how our dads impacted our lives. So, anything you wanna say about that, you know, or remember about those conversations is welcome too.
Robert Strock: (15:27)
Yeah. I mean, I had a very similar background where my mother who was devoted, and, and, um, absolutely took care of all my basic needs, but she was bitchy. And it was like, why are you bitchy? Why, why, why are you yelling? Why are you not loving? Isn’t it, aren’t we here, love and be loved. And, and I thought that was obvious, but it wasn’t obvious. So, we both started so young and I, while I’m free associating. So, it’s like one of the things about you and I that is so unique is that we both really, in our own ways have died and, and had a rebirth. You know, you died when your daughter Jenna died and you died in a way that honestly I’ve never seen anybody as fully and deeply, and then immediately, literally the day of established Families Helping Families and, and got your friends together and got the board together and, and said exactly what you said earlier, which is I am gonna be honoring my daughter’s life and do that. And for, I don’t know how many years, 15 years, 17 years, some artificial place where you suddenly, not suddenly actually, very much, not suddenly, but you very gradually came back to life through devotion to others. And for me, it was, you know, reactions to transplant medications. And I was dead for 10 years.
Ken Druck: (16:50)
Yes, you were.
Robert Strock: (16:50)
And it required tremendous perseverance and on a chemical level, on, on an emotional level, on a friendship level, on a working in the world level. And so we share that bond of if, if like coming back from death for all the people that are suffering, that are listening to, to have the, the strength to keep going for whether it’s chemically or emotionally or friendship wise, or work wise, be not giving up and persevering and being an influence in the world for good. And that is the common bond.
Ken Druck: (17:29)
Yes. And Robert, what I love about our conversations and about what we both have have learned is that resilience and enduring the dark night of the soul moments in our lives and summoning, newfound courage, newfound faith, newfound purpose, and meaning, and kindness and self-compassion, which I believe is the most, it’s the, it’s the ingredient that’s, that’s most, it’s a secret sauce, self-compassion, our hands on our hearts and our foot off our throat. And I believe that the, what, what happens organically when we learn to practice self-compassion. And when we practice compassion in the world, rather than allowing fear to paralyze us into projecting all of our crap onto other people, ya know that that, that is the organic awakening of how we go on, how we continue to live out the rest of our days and give them meaning and purpose, and eventually are able to make peace at the end of the ride, whenever that is to find a relative amount of peace that we did well.
Robert Strock: (18:55)
Yeah. And really to highlight, you know, for everyone that all that way, including now, we’re still dealing with all the emotions. We’re still human as hell. We’re still have our suffering.
Ken Druck: (19:12)
I like that as a title. Let’s, co-author a book “Human as Hell.”
Robert Strock: (19:16)
Ken Druck: (19:16)
I love that.
Robert Strock: (19:18)
And, and it’s so important. It’s not getting over it, it’s being with it. And, and, and, and we’ve both in our, in our own unique ways have suffered, been in our, still have our hell and not dwelling there, but using what we can to focus, as you said, on the healing directions, rather than bouncing off of the suffering and letting that own us.
Ken Druck: (19:47)
Exactly. You know, people ask me, how are you doing now? You know, they’re asking me, am I whole now, am I over being broken? And I tell them that the highest form of understanding grief and even love is that I am utterly broken, look into my eyes and you’ll see a sorrow. That’ll be there forever that my daughter did not get to live out her life. And that I didn’t get, I, it was a, the biggest blessing in my life were my daughters. And that I don’t get to live out her life with her and watch her blossom into this amazing woman. So, am I broken? I’m utterly broken and you’re not gonna meet many people who are more whole than me. Yeah. I’m absolutely whole broken and whole, as a matter of fact, the biggest, the greatest part of my wholeness is my brokenness. So people say, how are you doing?
Ken Druck: (20:47)
And I say, look, you know, the biggest accomplishment for me has been to get over the shame of my brokenness. I tell people, I walk with a limp in my heart. And you know, when I think about all the people that have come back from war zones, who are literally walking with a limp, and who, who, who who’ve been broken, their bodies have been broken. And when I think about what you have been through, the ordeal of, of asking your body to, to find a way to go on and to cope and to function and asking your mind to do that when you are dealing with medication and you’ve had a transplant, and you’ve, you’ve had not many people understand what that ordeal is, you know, but having gone through it, you know, you walk with a limp in your heart as well, and your brokenness and your challenge has become a part of you. You, you actually it’s become a source of your deepest wisdom and sharings and generosity of heart is the understanding and the compassion that you’ve taken from that and courage.
Robert Strock: (21:56)
To paraphrase. What I heard you say hundreds of times, and I’m sure it’s ten thousands of times when you were dealing with people that had lost their child was they would ask you, am I fucked? And you would say, paraphrasing it, you can give it the exact words, but cuz I heard it said slightly different ways at different times, but yes, we’re fucked forever and we’re, and we’re not fucked and, and, and that it’s important to honor both.
Ken Druck: (22:28)
When, when I have been in the presence of people who watched their child who went to first grade, be murdered or in the presence of the town hall meetings after 9/11 and in the middle of, of more pain than anybody can imagine being in the middle of and people look at me and they just want the truth. Are, am I fucked? In other words, is this gonna be with me? Is this, can I get some positive thinking here or some shrink or some spiritual path that’s gonna save me from what I’m experiencing at the bottom of pain.
Ken Druck: (23:16)
And I, when I say you’re fucked, no, you are fucked. I’m saying, no, you’re not. But there’s another half of that truth. Paradoxically, you are fucked and you’re not fucked. You are actually going to get to go on and live out the rest of your days with a tremendous sense of purpose and honor and courage. And you will walk with a limp in your heart and you will be triggered. You know, tho, those people who’ve gone, who’ve lived in war zones or have suffered life losses like me or living losses. Their future has been obliterated, nobody’s died, but their future has been obliterated as they thought it would be their life as they knew it has ended. They get to go on. And you know, my template for that is, you know, you, you and I have shared and talked about and you’ve contribute depth to is the six honorings. You know that there are six at least honorings that what, when, when we are in that dark night of the soul moment that are guiding guideposts for how to go on and those six honorings, you know, are, and I’m always open to more. I’d love to, if somebody’s listening to this and you can add to these, please do, and they’re on, you know, they’re on my website. I can share them with you now very quickly. Or we can talk about them later.
Robert Strock: (24:49)
Go for it, go for it. Give us…
Ken Druck: (24:50)
Oh, the six honors very quickly are Number One, the way you honor, what you’ve lost is to survive. You might feel like you’re in the ICU and the line between your own life and death is very thin, but fighting your way back into life. Choosing understanding that you are gonna be in despair and trying to make good choices. As often as you can to stay on the path of hopefulness and fight your way back into life. Through self-care and self-compassion. That’s the first honoring. The Second honoring is to do something good in their name. It could be as simple as lighting a candle. It could be as simple as giving somebody a hug. Who’s suffering from something related to how they died. It could be giving money. It’s it’s, it’s that love to give to the world, give something in their name, something to the world.
Ken Druck: (25:52)
It’s what they would’ve done had they lived. The Third honoring is to embody some aspect of their essence. It might be their irreverence, their sense of humor, their kindness, their playfulness, their devotion, whatever it is embody, it become more of that as you grow up. The Fourth honoring is to begin to cultivate the spiritual relationship with them, cuz they’re not gonna be calling or visiting. You’re not gonna be seeing them in, in the way that you’re used to or hearing from them. So, here we are. We get to embody this realm. I call it the spiritual realm. You can call it whatever you want, but how do we express the love that never dies? The biggest pain in the world is not knowing what to do with our love. The love we’re feeling loved. The love we have to give when we has no place to go.
Ken Druck: (26:54)
It explodes. We contract, we become the, the heartbroken-closed instead of the heartbroken-open. The heartbroken-open has something to give to the world. The heartbroken-closed lives with the illusion that if we contract around our pain and we become the smaller version of ourselves and the more greedy and selfish and protective and defended version of ourselves that we’re gonna survive that way. The Fifth honoring is perhaps one of the most challenging it’s called take the high road. And after 9/11, we instituted a program because what do we want to do after we’ve suffered a loss? We wanna bite somebody’s nose off. We want to, we’re angry. We feel life is not fair. We feel betrayed, abandoned alone and, and, and, and nobody cares and nothing’s ever enough. So how do you take the high road? You don’t bite people’s noses off.
Ken Druck: (27:55)
You treat other people as an expression of your love towards what you’ve lost and who you’ve lost. You express patience and kindness. After 9/11, the average age of the person who died was 38. You had mother-in-laws and daughter-in-laws at each other’s throats. You’ll never see your grandkids again. Well, he was my son. Why aren’t they sending me, you know, it, it, the invitation and the rawness of grief to tear apart is so great. But the, the true reward and the path forward is to take the higher road with other people. Don’t buy, I bit some people’s noses off in the days and weeks and months after Jenna died, and, and I, I I’ve been so apologetic. Talk about making amends. And the Last honoring is the most difficult. It takes the most courage, and it’s called, Writing New Chapters of Life. That we dare, we have the audacity to begin, even though it feels like, how can I go on, how can I listen to a beautiful song? How can I have a good meal? How can I love again, see beauty, again, sense the miracle of life again, now, now that she’s gone, she doesn’t get to do that. It’s writing new chapters of life, making new memories and defining meaning and peace again. And that takes the greatest courage.
Robert Strock: (29:24)
Not only is the beauty of the gift that you’ve given to those thousands of people who are in the most intolerable suffering imaginable of losing a child to death at this lesson, these six honorings with the smallest of tweaks applies to every depressed moment. The person has every angry moment, every anxious moment, and the ability to use those honorings. You don’t have to have lost its child to see the wisdom in these six honorings. And for everyone, as I’m listening to it, I’m saying, gosh, when I’m depressed, am I gonna be able to move into those honorings when I feel exhausted, when I feel anxious. When you feel exhausted, when you feel anxious are you going to look for those places where you can honor the suffering all the way at the same time, you can move forward and there’s no illusion of having to get over it. So, I so appreciate the general applicability.
Ken Druck: (30:36)
Robert, I have a question for you because you have been my teacher and I, and my hero in, in, in your amazing way of understanding the importance of self-acceptance. You’re the way you humanize, no, nobody has ever in all my readings and listenings and, you know, meetings of, you know, great spiritual teachers and psychologists and all, has anybody ever been as clear? And you say to people, how could you not feel broken? How could you not, you, you, there’s an element of acceptance of that hand on the heart that somehow you embody and you teach. And I wanna know where that came from in you.
Robert Strock: (31:30)
Well, tough question. Um, first of all, thank you for, for the incredible acknowledgement. Honestly, what I remember, and this was really not from the kidney transplant, but it was from the reaction to the medications where I slept for an hour a night for six months. And basically just gradually came back to, uh, being able to see more than that, is that I would see my clients and the ones that really knew me well enough, they would bring their problems and they would feel self-conscious. And they, they wanted to know about me. And I would say to them at one level, I guarantee you that I’m as fucked as you are. I guarantee it. And so, the identification was being fucked, just like you did all the way through was like a magnet of permission to be able to be wherever the fuck you are and to honor that, and then add an and when you’re ready.
Robert Strock: (32:30)
Not cuz you should, but because you can find a place where nothing else needs anything. And so it has something to do with, it was sink or swim or survive or die because I couldn’t have been more fucked. I couldn’t feel any good feelings. I couldn’t feel joy. I couldn’t feel inspiration. I couldn’t feel faith. I couldn’t feel trust. I couldn’t feel tenderness, but something inside me knew I was chemically imbalanced. And so, I went through 350 chemical experiments to finally find a chemistry that allowed the body to come back along with doing all the work. But communication didn’t work. Meditation didn’t work. Prayer didn’t work. When I say work, it didn’t change my state. It, it helped. But the, but the point is that embracing all the darkest sides of ourselves with awareness and as much kindness as possible, that was the only way to possibly find a certain level of purpose and intention and will.
Robert Strock: (33:35)
And it was purpose, intention, and will. I still had the capacity and I could do, I did the best work of my life, but I didn’t feel good the whole time. I didn’t feel good for 10 years. It didn’t matter what I did, but it was being satisfied, even though I couldn’t feel it. My inner knowing knew I was prouder of myself, then that I am now, when miracles are happening now, then it was dog shit, you know, emotionally, but it was the hardest work. And you know, yourself, you know that when you were in your worst nightmare, worse than your worst nightmare, and you still stayed focused to help others. It’s like, and you don’t have to go as extreme as we did. You know, please nobody out there think, oh, I guess I better slit my wrist so I can feel as much pain as we did. No, no matter what your pain is, embracing it, and then using it as a catalyst to both care for it and the world. Very similar to what we’re talking about with psycho-politics.
Ken Druck: (34:37)
When you and I sit and talk, we talk, we try to learn from each other or about how did we, how are we pivoting from saving our own souls, finding peace when we can finding kindness, putting, keeping our hands on our hearts, enduring the moments of suffering that are inevitable in everybody’s life. How do we pivot from that into Global Bridge, into the Jenna Drug Foundation, into the things we’ve written into sending some of that love, teaching, caring, things that we’re learning about ourselves and sharing that more generally with the world. Yeah. Have, do we pivot?
Robert Strock: (35:24)
Yeah. And how do we pivot in all the small ways we’re pissed off at our partner? How do we pause? We’re depressed. How do we find a will? You know, we’re not in a good mood, but there’s the clerk next to us. How do we find a moment inside of caring? Or can we find a moment inside of just getting a good vibe? How can we do, how can we do the small, medium and big things while all that’s happening? Now I wanna go back and, and just ask you to share a little bit. Yeah, I know you’ve implicit. You sort of implied in everything, but anything that hasn’t come out with Families Helping Families and the Jenna Drug Foundation, cuz it, it’s so massive for so many years. And I know it still only represents a part of your life, but tell us a little bit about that.
Ken Druck: (36:12)
Robert, my awareness that the greatest resource of all for so many of us is in our own homes, right outside of our window, our neighbors, our friends, our confidants and communities of people that have suffered comparable losses or are facing comparable adversities that can be, become a source of peer education and peer support. We, we live in a world where too many things are pathologized and we don’t realize that the young it’s not the sick part of me. It’s the young part of me, the unknowing part of me, the part, that, that I need time and to breathe and to be able to talk openly and explore with, with others. And when we can find trusted confidants, and again they’re often a step away, a moment of trust away, and a permission away, that when we, we can do that as I did with Families Helping Families, we’ve created the greatest resource in the world and that resource, Families Helping Families isn’t shrinks helping families.
Ken Druck: (37:36)
It isn’t, you know, organization. It was people who have gone through comparable losses in the room together are learning how to create a safe space, a judgment-free zone, where people could share what they are doing that works. What they’re trying, that didn’t work. What they’re struggling is without anybody trying to fix them or figure them out. Just people who, you know, Jenna you, my stories about Jenna is, you know, at age three, she said, daddy be with, and that became her anthem. It’s the anthem of the Jenna Drug Foundation, be with, be healing presence to somebody by just listening, quieting your own thoughts. You know, there’s an expression we used to use, compassion is your pain in my heart. It’s allowing ourselves for even a moment to imagine what it might must be like to be that person going through what they’re going through, not rehearsing a quick fix or response or a why saying, or a religious or psychological cliche, it’s be with them.
Ken Druck: (38:57)
It’s saying, tell me more, help me understand, it’s thanking them for their trust because within it’s the recognition that within us, we have the resource to heal ourselves. Of course we need and love, healing, and touch, and care and support, and, and even hand holding when we need it. But within us is the greatest resource for healing. It’s our own safe space where we can look at our options, bring our critical thinking in, keep our hand on our heart so that when our foot on our throat isn’t distracting us from, from being at the courtroom with only a prosecuting attorney producing evidence that we screwed up and we haven’t done enough and we’re failing and we’re, you know, we’re a mess. We’re the hot mess of the week. Instead, it’s our hand on our heart echoing what you, if so embodied for so long, it’s saying, how could I not feel the way I’m feeling? How, how can I not feel so confused? So lost so hopeless at this moment.
Speaker 3: (40:05)
I want you just to have people have a sense of this. How many families do you think that you actually touch with Families Helping Families? How many years have you done the Jenna Drug Foundation? And just give us a real bottom line.
Ken Druck: (40:20)
20 years, 20 years, um, countless tens of, or hundreds of thousands of families directly, directly, we would help 700 families a year, indirectly, thousands more. Uh, a lot of the things that we wrote the protocols for how to deal with an end of the, um, how, how to, how to, how to experience every element, how to help your surviving children, how to function in a marriage when you’re grieving differently. Um, you know how to give yourself the time and the support and the love that you’re gonna need to be on, to be a work in progress, healing over years, months, maybe the rest of your life, permission for that. Those are, those things that we’ve written that we put out books that I’ve written have impacted, you know, hundreds and thousands, if not millions more so, all over the world. Cuz my books have been published if and parts of the world and our materials have found their way to different parts of the world. So, I get calls from China and UK and Hungary. And God knows where else from, from people who are saying thank you because you’ve given me room to breathe.
Ken Druck: (41:41)
I, they, they live in a world that is grief illiterate, just like our world is relatively grief illiterate. When I’ve taught grief literacy, the Harvard School of Public Health it’s, it’s really, it’s almost awakening. Or when I, I work with psychiatrists at University of California San Diego Medical School, they’re trying to learn grief literacy. That’s a wonderful thing. And if you know, grief and loss, you know, most of it you have learned about, you have learned something about what life is and how life is and what life’s terms are that will help you in almost every adversity and opportunity.
Robert Strock: (42:25)
Yeah. I mean grief, literacy. I think of you and of course it broadens to the other themes, but the world is also generally anger-illiterate and anxiety-illiterate. And when by illiterate, I don’t mean there’s not an intellectual understanding, it means there isn’t an encouragement to embrace that as a healthy part of life and a mandatory part of life. And, and if we could bring that literacy to, of course you feel a version of hell, everybody does, whether they admit it or not. If you start with that understanding, then you, you normalize yourself and you realize I have potential to embrace that and move on. So, I wanna ask you . . .
Ken Druck: (43:13)
Well, I wanna, I wanna follow up on that with you cuz another thing that you masterfully teach is tone. How, what about tone? If we learn truly to listen, we are in such a polarized world. We don’t listen for a second. We’re tearing each other, we’re in, in self-righteous radical corners screaming at each other, building narratives about each other and for darkening the room and, and growing further and further apart to the point of incivility and even civil war, a civil war, an uncivil war. And yet the very thing that you were talking about is tone in which we can build bridges we can build. And I’m gonna give you a quick example and then I want your, I want you to help me understand what it is that happens. I get a call from a radio station. I write the book and they want to interview me on the book, the Real Rules of Life book.
Ken Druck: (44:16)
And I get a call and, and I find out from my publicist, this guy is one of the people who started the, uh, the Tea Party. So I figure, oh my God, I live in California. I am gonna be California liberal roadkill. That’s why this guy’s having me on his show. And the next morning I get on the, the, the, the show and I’m prepared to either defend myself or to find a bridge. And he says to me to start the show, Dr. Druck, I can’t imagine I have three kids. I can’t imagine what you have gone through to lose your oldest daughter and what that was like for you. Hmm. And I jumped in to acknowledge him as a loving father. The entire hour became a conversation about our kids and the world we wanted for our kids and it was the same world. We had different ideas about how to get there, but we didn’t get into that. We got into what the world we wanted. It was the best interview I ever had for that book. And we became friends as a result of it. So, there are unlikely friendships that form. What’s the key Robert, in terms of tone, what do we do to forge those unlikely friendships and to avoid Thanksgiving from becoming hell, yeah, or Christmas or New Year’s or any day?
Robert Strock: (45:53)
You know, I alluded to my childhood and my mother being bitchy and dedicated. And there’s something about tone, like music, where it is the universal language. And we, it’s not a matter of manufacturing a tone, like you’re gonna press a button, it’s doing a heart survey and looking inside and recognizing you wanna energize those chords. You want to energize the chords that are actually going to allow goodness to emerge. And it’s not anything sacrificial. It’s one of those places where you’re a receiver and a giver and it’s all one and it’s together. And so, when we find that tone that cares, we’re really where we all need to be. And that tone is really something that unites us all, whether we’re, whether we’re Russian or American or whether we’re the Middle East or whether, whether we’re American or, or whether wherever we are, whatever religion we are, tone of voice speaks beyond those religions.
Robert Strock: (47:08)
And, and we need to both drop a level, learn to drop a level of holding onto the past.” Well, your father,” my fav, my favorite line of all time from any show was in Game of Thrones. Where, where, where the lead character says, I will not blame the present leader for the sins of her evil father. And if the world can learn that the tone needs to be one of assuming goodwill or possible goodwill and reaching for that goodwill internationally nationally in our bedrooms with our kids, then, then we’re home, we’re, we’re uniting, tone is universal.
Ken Druck: (47:53)
Thank you. That’s beautiful. You know, I, I, I know we’re not allowed to talk about what time it is in, in life right now, but I’m gonna sneak in a commercial because it’s the Olympics. And I have to tell you that the highlight of the Olympics is watching an American and a Russian as, as we sit on the verge of war with Ukraine and Russia, and the world is on edge, watching a Russian skier and an American skier in their moment of triumph or of defeat, cuz it’s all, it looks like it’s all about winning and losing. But the heart moment is reaching across and hugging and congratulating and acknowledging and knowing that we are, we’re all trying to be our best. We all want to, you know, we all want the sense of glory, but whether we win or lose, that is not the issue.
Ken Druck: (48:55)
And I almost wanna put, you know, the, the leaders of all countries in this kind of an Olympics, put them on stage, let them figure out how to hug each other, you know, because they don’t, they’re on stage posing and posturing. They not in a real, you and I have fantasized at times, convening a meeting of world leaders and sitting down and holding them accountable to being human instead of posing and posturing. And, and that they’re representing something righteous, you know, that that nothing could be more righteous than getting a line of trust, communication, connection, and mutual well-being, holding each other’s sense of well-being and heart, not using it as a ploy to invade and militarize, but using that their own sincere effort to, to value and consider the well, their well-being and the well-building of their children and the children of their nation. And uh, because that is where the tone is so much needed and is so absent and devoid.
Robert Strock: (50:11)
The Olympics is really the equivalent to tone because you have the United Nations of the world. And I was gonna end this conversation with asking, but I think we’ve just answered most of it, of the one theme or motivation that you most wanna support in the world, but the Olympics and tone, laughter, goodwill. The word I would add to, to what you, what you said was cooperation that if the world leader decided we were gonna have a United Nations of the World, not just nine nations, not just ones that are going to be co, in a codependent relationship with United Nations, but if we have the United Nations of the world collaborating and saw the sameness that exists in all of us, we have all the resources to be able to solve all the issue that are on the, on our plate right now. And that’s certainly my answer to the question, but I wanna ask you your answer to the question of if there’s one theme or one motivation that we haven’t expressed that you really most have in your heart, that you wanna express. Please do it.
Ken Druck: (51:22)
Thank you. Thank you. Well, the, the thing that comes up first is expressing my love for you and honoring you, my brother, and for creating this conversation, this forum for exercising your love for the world. I know you love your family, I’ve watched that for 40 years, but you expanding that love into the world and making this, your devotion, the work that you’ve done, uh, the work that you’re doing with Mark Spiro, uh, the work that you are finding partners for, uh, worldwide, and that you are given it your best shot, you’re given it your best shot. And, uh, uh, you know, that’s the first thing. Second thing is, uh, is it’s the realization. There’s a realization that’s, you know, the fish is the last to see the ocean. We are standing in the middle of an ocean. That ocean is the miracle that somehow we are conscious.
Ken Druck: (52:28)
We take nourishment from air. Our bodies are configured to take nourishment, to sustain life. Our bodies make corrections and adjustments all the time. And our hearts are pumping blood to heal and nourish and, and we have each other, we can even communicate and connect, my two and one-half year old grandson who named me poppy can look up and say, poppy, I love you. His heart is already pumping love and, and I can feel it and I can give it back to him and everything. I do it in the way I show up for him and his brother and his mother and his father. We are in the middle of a miracle to behold, and to savor and to cherish. And our gratitude must prevail. We’ve got to look at the big picture, our gratitude for having been given this life for a time and the opportunity to pay it forward. As I imagine, many of our ancestors did to pave the path for us, to show up here for a time. In that gratitude is compassion, is humility, is devotion, and commitment is generosity of heart, is forgiveness and is peace. And I leave you with that thought.
Robert Strock: (54:06)
Hmm. Well, I in am grateful, very grateful for our love for this conversation. And one highlight that really is a highlight is that when we are able to be in a place where we can brace our own pain and then we get to reach out. There’s no, should, it’s not that we have to. It’s not that we should. It’s not that it’s an imposition. It’s the gift to ourselves for those that see it as, as God it’s, God’s gift to us as our potential. For those that just see it from an ordinary place. It’s the gift of being able to find the cord, the tone, the heart, the union. And there’s the realistic hope, if we imagine the defenses of the world and all that expanse, being used to the opportunity of union, the world could heal in all of our little efforts, all of them matter, every good vibe, every good thought, every acceptance of our pain is really what I most wish for. And then the using it as a springboard, or as you said earlier, as a pivot. And so, I’m very grateful for this conversation and I love you brother. And I, I, I hope that everyone honors their own pain as they listen to whatever they are and can use that goodwill and goodness as a springboard for whatever little, medium, or big things that they can move forward with.
Ken Druck: (55:53)
Love you, Robert. Thank you.
Robert Strock: (55:55)
Love you too, Ken.
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