It is devastating when we experience a loss of any kind. Each loss will affect us differently than the previous one. It doesn’t matter if it’s the loss of a loved one, the loss of a pet, the loss of a job, the failure of a marriage, the disappointment of not achieving or having success at or with something you so desperately want, or the ending of a long and dear friendship. When any of these things or any other loss occur in our life we are going to grieve. When we suffer a loss it will force us through a process that I’ve described in six prior articles. (Here are links to each of them: Emerging From Grief Towards Wholeness – Part 1, There is Nothing Wrong (Denial), Why Am I so Angry (Anger), Let’s Not Make a Deal (Bargaining), This is a Dark Place (Depression), This is My Reality (Acceptance). We are human and the pain and sorrow from any type of loss is going to cause us to go through that process. As a result, it will challenge us and eventually cause us to grow.
When it became apparent to me that my marriage was ending and over, I began grieving immediately. The problem was, initially, I wasn’t doing anything to help myself get through the pain and hurt. I was just a passenger along for the ride and wasn’t taking charge of my own destiny. As I shared with you previously, I did start journaling right away but I eventually gave that up. I began counseling but didn’t think I was getting anything out of it so I stopped going. I read some books that helped. I tried much of what they suggested but, when I couldn’t get my wife to buy into the ideas with me or it seemed hopeless, I gave up on those as well.
It wasn’t until months later that I figured out what I needed to do in order to heal; what I needed to do to make myself better; to become whole again. I was too concerned with taking care of everyone else prior to that point. I had to take care of my wife, our children, our parents, our friends. Never once did it occur to me that I couldn’t do anything for any of them until I had first taken care of myself.
I can pinpoint the exact moment when I started to take control and be in charge of my own healing. I had gone away for the weekend to visit my sister and some dear friends of mine. Early in the trip, as I was driving, I had a conversation with a friend that had gone through a similar situation in his marriage. There was just something that seemed to click on that five hour car ride and the weekend that followed. I knew at that moment that I needed to get up, brush myself off and take charge of my own fate. By that point it was all about self-preservation. I couldn’t continue to go on the way I was. It just wasn’t working and wasn’t going to get any better if I didn’t make a change. I would only continue my downward spiral if I didn’t do something.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing from that moment forward though. That’s when the work really began. I discovered that grieving is like riding a roller coaster. There were highs and lows. There were periods where everything seemed great and then seemingly out of nowhere there would be a bad day. Sometimes it was even a bad week or God forbid a month! I found those bad days to get easier as time went on though. That was the key – time. Those feelings – the loneliness, anger, depression, emptiness, denial – all of it had to be worked through at the pace it needed to be. For me, the emptiness at times was overwhelming. I found I was tormented in the middle of the night by any number of things. Often it was the knowledge that I was alone and my wife was not. I felt humiliated, sabotaged, betrayed and used. I was frustrated and resentful for what I perceived was wrong being done to me.
Interestingly enough, though, I believe that by working through the grief and embracing it, it gave me my life back. I have rediscovered myself and have grown in ways I would have never guessed. I was forced to travel a route I would not have chosen for myself. Facing the obstacles on that road with my eyes open and dealing with them rather than taking continual detours, I have reached a new, and in many respects, a better destination than I would have had I not gone through this painful experience. Through faith and a strong support system I was able to keep moving and, when I did have to change directions, I was able to quickly get back on track.
That was the key though. I needed to keep moving forward, keep fighting for what I knew and believed would be better days. When I look in the mirror today I see so much more that what was there previously. What I see is so much better. Like pruning a tree, the loss and subsequent grief I suffered caused so much growth. I am better, stronger and so much more filled with life because I embraced my experience, eventually meeting the real struggles head on rather than running from them. I refused to let them break me and define who I was as a person. I used my loss to become more outgoing and take risks by putting myself out there. It wasn’t always easy but I am so glad I did. I have been exposed to so many wonderful people and experiences that I wouldn’t trade for anything. I have often wondered if I would have come to this place, this much better place, if it weren’t for the grief I was forced to work through. In what may seem odd, there are some days that I need to be thankful for my grief because of where it has led me.
I do believe that I needed to experience all the emotions that came from my loss in order to heal. I tried to fight them, deny them, but in the end it’s how I chose to react to those emotions that defined who I am and how I was able to move forward. It was my embracement of my loss and choosing to understand my grief on a very intimate level that made me whole again. No one ever enjoys experiencing loss. We don’t ask for it or want it. However, it is inevitable in life. It is going to happen to all of us and we are all going to be challenged by it in some way or another. The key to how it affects us is in how we choose to respond to it. We can choose to ignore it and struggle for a long time or we can choose to face it for what it is. It isn’t fun and it sometimes really hurts and can cause us unimaginable pain. I can promise you this though, if you choose to work with it. If you choose to face it for what it is, you will find joy again. You will discover just how strong you are and how much courage you have. You will not forget what it is that you lost but be able to remember it fondly and know that you are more complete because you had those experiences in your life. Even though they may be gone now you are here. You are the living example of your past and how you became who you are and that is beautiful.
Be Great! Be Strong!
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