How does one ‘see’ a butterfly in a caterpillar? Who has that ability? Our lives, all of us, carry the opportunity for great transformation. But how does this occur?

After loving and losing Nick, I have asked myself these questions many times; the questions of “how?” and “what now?”

The brokenness and devastation that we experienced in loving and then losing Nick, was unimaginable to us. I, like many of you who may read this, have lost people very close to you. It is always hard, so very hard. But nothing could have prepared us for the loss of a son and a brother.

Out of the devastation however, we, all of us, have found the ‘seeds’ of transformation. Because the loss so transformed us; we, in turn must find our own path to transform those of us around us.

Recently I listened to a conversation with Kathy Eldon, who lost her son, Dan Eldon, 20 years ago in a horrific death. In the interview, Kathy said, that to her, the only adequate and honoring response to her loss and to Dan’s life, was to “transform her grief”. She and Dan’s sister, Amy, have done this by building an international organization called Creative Visions Foundation. Here, they honor the person of Dan; his loves, his interests, his passion and compassion for others. Here, in Dan’s name, they reach out to others with creativity just as he would have done.

For our family, who for 13 years struggled to understand mental illness and addiction, our path may be different, but the outcome, we hope, will be just as transformative.

My daughter Vanessa, is now expressing through her gift of music, the loss of her brother and her solidarity with others who have also lost. Her recent song, “It’s Love That Wins” was her way to honor the courage of Francine and David Wheeler after the loss of their son Ben in the Sandy Hook tragedy. The ‘seeds’ that gave expression to her music, and was realized in her song, were placed in her heart’s broken ‘soil’ after losing her own beautiful brother. This is transformation.

My wife has taken her experience with Nick and with our family, during these past 13 years, to express her grief and transform it by helping other families at our local mental health facility. She is now part of one of the most encouraging developments within the mental health system; a place, where family members of someone suffering under the weight of mental illness, can find their own love, care and guidance.  This is transformation.

For myself, transforming the loss and life of Nick, has taken the path of producing a film to honor Nick’s journey, “Beautiful Boy .. More Than An Addict”; creating a conference titled  Seams of Gold, as well as speaking to others via this blog and elsewhere.

Part of this was realized recently through an interview with Bill White. Bill White honored both myself and Nick by allowing me to speak to his extensive audience regarding Nick, the film and the “what now?”. Where this journey ends, I have no idea. All I know is that, for me, this is transformation.

I have mentioned before the book “Lament For A Son”. The author, who lost his son at the age of 25, says in regards to his loss, that “if sympathy for the world’s wounds is not enlarged by our anguish, if love for those around us is not expanded, if gratitude for what is good does not flame up, if insight is not deepened, if commitment to what is important is not strengthened, if aching for a new day is not intensified, if hope is weakened and faith diminished, if from the experience of death comes nothing good, then death has won……then death be proud”. Herein lies the ‘seeds’ necessary for the ‘chemistry’ of transformation.

In the words of that “luminous Nazarene” to quote Albert Einstein, “unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” May this be the path that marks your transformation.

For a better day.



  1. Concha Madrid · · Reply

    Beautiful film, Jim. We can feel your deep sadness in this work of art. Loved hearing Vanessa’s lovely song and get a glimpse of all the family. Sending prayers for your healing and a return to a sense of peace and joy. Tony Silva and Concha Madrid

    1. Jim Contopulos · · Reply

      Thank you Concha and Tony. Seems like another lifetime when we were in your front room hearing the girls sing. Wonderful memories. Hope all is well. We are doing o.k. some days are better than others, but we’ll do this in the best way we can.. love to all

  2. Hi Jim, hope your family is healing in whatever small ways you can grab onto. My son is gone 7 months now. As you well know, some days are better than others.

    Elizabeth Cook sings from our common experience of addiction–

    1. Jim Contopulos · · Reply

      Very powerful song..tragically beautiful. Thank you for introducing me to this piece and thank you for your kind words. Ayabird, I want you to know that there is light to be found even thought at time the darkness seems overwhelming. You are not alone in this grief..

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