Often, when disputants arrive in my Magnum Mediation virtual meeting room they have lost something. Whether it is money, friends, business partners, neighbors, inheritance, land, the list is endless. But the one thing they all have in common is grief. Grief over something or someone they’ve lost. The blame is usually shifted onto the other party where it stays until both parties come to terms with sharing the responsibility for what brought them to mediation. Grief makes you behave irrationally because you’re gutted and trying to make sense of your new reality.

Last week I lost two people I loved. Both, in their own way, were famous but I knew them and loved them as members of my family. David Berglas, the International Man of Mystery, told me one evening in his home in north London that a piece of tin foil that he had randomly plucked from the inside of a pack of cigarettes and had rolled up into a ball was burning my hand. Secured inside my fist, I was pretty sure he was wrong until the pain of the burning tin foil ball threatened to leave lasting scars. To my amazement there were no wounds, nor would there be scars which I could have treasured as souvenirs. David could do that and so much more but to me, he will always be my first cousin, twice removed, the father of some wonderful cousins, the grandfather of many, and the husband of Ruth. Their long and happy marriage was a model to us all and I shall grieve his loss immensely.

My mate Tim Woodward, the Id to all of our Egos, passed away suddenly from pancreatic cancer last week as well. I knew him for 45 years. He was an actor but more than that, he was a poet of the stage whose lyrical sensibilities transformed many, many performances into remarkable feats of characterization, daring, and humility. He lived his life on top of an array of motorcycles, a scarf swung nonchalantly around his neck, cresting his eponymous black leather jacket, and topped off with a battle-scarred white helmet. I acted with him on stage and screen, we produced and performed in a late-night musical
extravaganza entitled A BIT OF A J. ARTHUR (Cockney rhyming slang), and we drank together in many, many pubs but especially in the French House in Soho, the former center of the French Resistance during World War II, and the watering hole of choice for the artists, journalists, musicians, and the odd tourist who populated this colorful corner of London. His loss is unfathomable, unthinkable, unbreathable.

And so we grieve just as our clients do, trying to wrap our heads around an immeasurable loss while trying to hand onto a slim sliver of what we had. This submission is my mediation on grief.