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Life, Death & The Space Between

Jun 1, 2023

Has anyone in your life ever experienced a big loss? What did you say to them? Did you struggle to find the right words? Did you give them the space to speak about their loved one?


Did you just give up and distance yourself from them?


Today we talk with Colin Campbell, a writer and director for theater and film whose short film was nominated for an Academy Award. Colin and his wife Gail have experienced the deepest form of loss – the death of their children, Ruby and Hart. His new book, “Finding the Words”, explores his grief journey after their tragic deaths.


Listen in to hear their story, how to even start coping with this kind of loss, the importance of community and rituals in grief, and why it’s so important to find the words to keep speaking about those who have passed. 

Topics We Discuss:


  • [1:45] Amy’s experience with Colin’s work. Colin’s book brought her to tears in an airport despite her background working with grief. Many of us are afraid of pain and avoid it, although it is sometimes mixed with joy.


  • [5:09] Colin’s late children, Ruby and Hart. They were kind, magnetic children - the lives of the party. Hart was a clown as Colin calls him and often embodied different “characters” when joking with his friends. Ruby was an artist, book lover, and advocate for others.  


  • [11:20] What happened to Ruby and Hart? Colin and his family were hit by a drunk and high driver going 40 over the speed limit, and the children passed in the back seat. He and his wife were devastated with grief.


  • [13:12] The process of grief. Colin worked with grief groups, his rabbi, and his community to embrace the grief and push through the loss. Taking action from his grief kept him going, sitting in the sadness was overwhelming. He tries to stay connected with the kids.


  • [16:00] First step to dealing with losing your children. Dealing with denial is an early step, if not the first to healing. It’s incredibly difficult to accept the fact that your children are really gone.


  • [19:00] Colin leaned on his wife’s Jewish traditions for grief and loss support. The community support was critical to his process.


  • [22:27] What happens after the rituals end? Jewish culture says to commemorate the end, so Colin and his wife, Gail, had a ceremony with family and friends. This is a practice they continue to lean on.


  • [25:12] Navigating holidays after loss. Holidays are a reminder of the loss and can be challenging. Colin has found that leaning into the pain and honoring your loved ones helped.


  • [26:43] Grief and marriage. Some couples isolate from each other and struggle after losing children; however, the rate of divorce is lower in couples who have experienced loss than the national average. Colin and Gail actively grieved together and found support in each other.


  • [29:21] Pain, suffering, despair and moving through. Pain is the inescapable feeling of hurt that comes from loss. It needs to be felt. Suffering is the unhealthy expression of pain. Guilt and regret lead to suffering. Despair is overwhelming hopelessness - if you are suicidal you need to seek help. Rituals, community, talking about the dead and the pain, and taking action to connect with life and others are ways through.


  • [36:53] Educating others. Colin and Gail wrote letters to the people around them to help them understand how to support them. It can feel awkward and takes a lot of courage. People appreciated being told what to say and do to help. Acknowledging the loss helps those grieving feel less alone.


  • [43:47] What to say to people who are grieving. “There are no words” isn’t an accurate statement about loss. Ruby and Hart’s friends’ words were impactful because they were simply expressions of love and loss. “Comforting words” often minimize the pain. Giving people space to tell stories about the dead is the greatest gift you can give them.


  • [47:55] Colin’s afterlife beliefs. He’s seen the kids in his dreams. He believes they live on inside of him and Gail. He sometimes thinks they might be sending him signs, but he warns against relying on signs too much. The afterlife can sometimes be used as a way to avoid feeling the hurt now because of a hope of reuniting later.


  • [52:40] Colin’s experience fostering. It was originally Ruby’s idea. Their foster daughter eventually decided she didn’t want to be part of the family because she was afraid of being close with Colin and Gail. They are now fostering to adopt two siblings, a boy and a girl. It’s a tough road because foster children have lived a life of trauma and loss.


  • [59:32] Colin’s book. “Finding the Words” is a great resource for those who are grieving. Amy shares a quote from the book.





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Stay Connected with Dr. Amy Robbins:



Find Colin and the programs he offers on his website or on Instagram.


Colin’s book, “Finding the Words” is available on Amazon (affiliate).  


Life, Death and the Space Between is brought to you by:

Dr. Amy Robbins | Host, Executive Producer

PJ Duke | Executive Producer

Max Bugrov | Extrassaus | Audio & Video Editing

Mara Stallins | Outreach & Social Media Strategy

Claire | | Podcast Cover Design