Doing good in a person’s name

As we acknowledge our loved one’s Giveaway, we may want to take action in their name, to memorialize them. That sort of action has various names.


“Co-destiny”, a concept developed by Joseph Kasper, is the idea that if you do good in a person’s name, it adds to that person’s legacy. Co-destiny works through the psychological processes of creating meaning out of loss and reframing it in ways that promote posttraumatic growth through action ( While Kasper originally formulated Co-destiny to help bereaved parents, I believe his process could work for any grieving person. This simple yet powerful idea helped Dr. Kasper cope with his young son’s death and to grow from that tragedy. For my purposes, I found great comfort in Kasper’s explanation that he has reframed both his and his son’s life to include the spiritual world.

The Phoenix Phenomenon: Rising from the ashes of trauma

Similarly, Joanne Jozefowski, author of The Phoenix Phenomenon (1999), describes “Phoenix Grievers” as people (named for the mythical bird) who rise from the ashes of their trauma to undertake valuable or even heroic deeds. Their mission offers a kind of “spark” that leads them to keep the spirit of their loved one alive by helping others. They create something tangibly beneficial for others or become involved in altruistic causes that benefit others in situations similar to theirs. So, for example, we might establish a foundation in honor of a loved one who died tragically.

My need to do good in Karl’s name

In common with a significant minority of people who have lost a loved one, I seek meaning to honor Karl’s memory and to add goodness to my life by doing good in his name. After some time immersed in my own grieving, I begin to feel called to engage more widely — to help others in difficulty and to give back (Herman, 2015, “Recovery from Psychological Trauma”: 207). As survivors, we have suffered significant loss and have learned how to move forward. We may then transform the meaning of our tragedy and make it a gift to others.

Making our pain a gift to others and redeeming our trauma

As these feelings begin to emerge, we may gently begin to loosen our hold on our departed one. Then we may be able to make our pain a gift to others and thereby begin to redeem our trauma. Marianne Williamson reminds us that in every community, there is work to be done and wounds to heal.

And in every heart, there is the power to do it.

We are survivors. As we share our altruistic impulses in a community enterprise, we will almost certainly discover that we can do something. That is an essential ingredient of any survivor mission. We are putting our grief into action in the service of others. We are moving beyond the limits of our ego and pain, considering others and doing service to them. We are widening our circle of caring and increasing the circle of those who are worthy of our consideration. And, in the process of doing that, we are sharing our own story.

And we are saying yes to life.