It Does Get Better – Emerging From Grief Toward Wholeness – Part 7

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.

Red Rock Morning

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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This is My Reality. I Choose to Act. Emerging From Grief Toward Wholeness – Part 6

As I have described in previous writings in this series, when you suffer loss in your life you go through a process of grieving.  It begins with denial and then moves to anger.  Typically you bargain with anyone, no one, God and yourself to try and make sense of it all.  You most likely will suffer some sort of depression but eventually, to be healthy and resolve the hurt and sorrow, you will need to arrive at a state of acceptance.

As a result of some of the realizations that I had during my dark period of depression, I began to slowly start to accept what was happening to me.  How my life was changing.  I realized that this was going to happen whether I wanted it to or not.  I could kick and scream as much as I wanted.  Believe me, when alone, I kicked and screamed like a two year old having a tantrum.  Regardless, it didn’t matter, my marriage was ending.  The loss was real.

Acceptance for me was finally realizing that I was tired of living the lie.  I was tired of all my wife’s spending.  I was tired of all the lying.  I came to realize that my wife had probably been lying to me about a lot of things for quite a few years.  I knew what was going on but it was easier to ignore it rather than talk about it in a healthy and constructive way.  The fact of the matter is I didn’t know how to do that without being confrontational so it was just easier to pretend and not say anything.  And I wonder why it was that my marriage was over?  Get a clue buddy!

I was tired of being played as a fool.  I was tired of the divisiveness that seemed to often occur between my wife, family and friends.  I was tired of loving and not being loved in return.  My emotional bucket was empty and this woman I was in love with hadn’t done much, if anything, to fill it in quite some time.  I was tired of being hurt.  I was tired of being lonely.  I was tired of being sad.  I was tired of being angry!  I was exhausted in so many ways.

I was also tired of my own lack of action.  I chose not to communicate clearly with my wife about how I felt and what I thought we needed to change.  That was my choice to avoid tough but necessary conversations.  That is on me and part of what I had to own in this whole mess to move forward.  I was also choosing to wallow in self-pity and feel sorry for myself.  As long as I kept making those choices and refusing to accept my roll and circumstances it would be impossible for me to become healthy again.


I don’t think it matters what type of loss you are experiencing.  In order to be healed and become whole again you need to get to the point of acceptance.  For each person the route they travel to get there is going to be different.  Eventually though, you will get there and it will be when you are ready; when it is right for you.  For some that may be quicker than others but I hope if you are grieving a loss in your life that you do eventually reach that point.  As odd as this sounds, I hope you reach that point of exhaustion; that point where you realize taking no action is worse than going on as you are.

For me, eventually, I found that this terrible thing that was happening to me was going to be the catalyst that allowed me to grow and become a stronger, better individual.  My grief was real and I had begun to embrace it.  I was learning to recognize my feelings and work with them rather than against them.  I was beginning to understand my grief.  I was becoming intimate with myself again.  It took me a long time to get to that point.  Years really.  I often would have glimpses of my whole and healthy self and then something would happen in my life and I’d have a small relapse.  After a short period of time, I would work through the issues and begin to move forward again.  I can tell you that with each subsequent loss, each perceived setback in my life, I have always come out on the other side stronger, wiser, more whole and more confident than I was prior to those challenges.  The key, however, is that I had the courage to face what was in front of me and address it.  I had the drive and determination to keep moving forward, even if it was slow.

It isn’t always easy.  It’s hard more often than not and sometimes it just plain sucks.  Welcome to life.  We are all going to experience loss.  We are all going to experience disappointment.  We are all going to have struggles that at the time seem incomprehensible as to how you are going to get through them.  But you know what?  You will get through them.  Why?  Because you are a strong person!  You are a person with resolve!  You are filled with fight!  God made you that way!  He believes in you and you just need to believe in yourself!

I believe sometimes people are afraid to accept their loss – afraid to embrace their grief and what it represents.  It’s easy to get caught in the trap of being afraid to move forward.  Just because you accept it doesn’t mean that it is forgotten.  Just because you accept it doesn’t make it any less real.  Just because you accept it doesn’t mean you can’t look back fondly on the memories you had prior to your loss.  Just because you accept it doesn’t mean that which you loved, that which you cherished was never there.  Quite the contrary.  Once you accept it you will remember those memories, remember that loved one and remember the happy times in a whole new light.  You will be able to remember them and look back fondly rather than with pain, sorrow, regret or resentment.

However, it all comes down to a choice and that choice is yours to make and only yours.  You need to choose what you want to do.  Do you want to remain enslaved to bitterness, anger, denial and sadness or do you want to choose life, hope, happiness and joy?  I hope that when the time is right and you are ready that you choose wisely.

Be Great!  Be Strong!


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This is a Dark Place. Depression is Real. Emerging From Grief Toward Wholeness – Part 5

Managing the loss of someone or something is never easy.  The stages that you go through are difficult and not something anyone enjoys.  For me, one of the most difficult stages of the process was depression.  I’ve struggled with it every time I’ve grieved in my life.  When I think back to my childhood I know I experienced the stages of grief when school was out for the summer and I knew I wouldn’t see my friends until it began again in the fall.  Even then, I can recollect and realize there were forms of depression that I experienced.

The darkness that began with my anger led to what I can only describe as the darkest and loneliest place I have ever been.  I had many dark thoughts in those days.  I realize now that I was depressed.  It wasn’t a fun place to be and the thoughts I had during those times were scary.  I can’t imagine what would have happened had I not had a strong support system around me.  I am fortunate that I have a loving family and many friends that loved and cared for me.  They helped more than I could ever express to them.  Some of them may read these words and not even realize how dark those days were or how their presence in my life made a difference.  Many times it was simply a phone call to say hello or and invite to dinner.

On more than one occasion I wondered what would happen if I just didn’t exist anymore?  I felt like I could no longer take the lies, the deceit, the rejection.  I didn’t want to go on anymore.  I didn’t find joy in anything and all I wanted to do is sleep but, I couldn’t.  Sleeping seemed to awaken the demons and there was sleepless night after sleepless night just being alone with my own thoughts.  Those thoughts more often than not were irrational.  I became just so incredibly exhausted, not just physically but mentally and emotionally as well.  Most days I was just on autopilot.  I knew that was no way to live and I didn’t want to continue to do so.

I am not going to lie.  Depression and loneliness are very dark places to be.  This is difficult to share but I think it is important to so that if others out there are grieving loss and suffering through these stages, and in particular depression, that they know they are not alone.  I don’t believe I was ever close to ending my life but I would be lying if I didn’t admit that the thought of not being alive seemed to be an easy way to make the pain to go away.


Still, many years later I can remember two very specific moments when I most likely was at my lowest point.  I remember one not so sunny day getting up from my desk at work and walking outside to the river.  I looked down at the river and rocks and then to a train bridge that was near my office.  Would that do the trick?  Just walk out and jump off.  Could that stop the pain, the seemingly never ending torture?  Not today I told myself, maybe tomorrow.  Another time, while on a trip to a friend’s cabin, a place that was usually fun and full of life, family and friends, I remember praying that I would have an accident while skiing and drown.  I just didn’t know what else would stop the hurt and suffering I was feeling.  Thankfully, that prayer was never answered.

Anytime I would have those thoughts I would pray.  I would pray to God that he would take this from me.  That he would show me why this was happening and what I needed to do to become whole again; to find joy in life that I was missing at the time.  Those prayers were answered in the form of my family in particular.  Whenever those dark, heart wrenching thoughts would occur it would always lead back to this:  Would it be fair to my parents, to my siblings and most importantly, to my children?  Absolutely not!  That would then send them through the same terrible issues I was suffering from and would be unfair to them.  I wouldn’t want to do something that was so selfish.  However, there was another issue at play as well and that was that I so wanted to hurt my wife, rip out her heart and soul and make her feel responsible in a way for what I was experiencing.  Would this do it?  Again, it didn’t matter.  It was a selfish thought and although I didn’t realize it at the time, or maybe didn’t want to accept it, I contributed to where I was at as well.

I didn’t want my children to not have a father.  I had so much more to show them, teach them, experience with them, and from which to protect them.  It wasn’t good enough that I was merely still walking and breathing on this earth.  I needed to be real to them.  I needed to be present.  They deserved not only to have a living body that represented their Dad but a living Dad that was present in their life; a Dad that was healthy and there for them in whatever capacity they needed; a Dad that could show joy again.  That life, that vitality, had been stolen away from me and I needed to somehow get it back.

Depression and loneliness are real.  I believe they are just as real as other illnesses.  It is sometimes hard, however, for others in your life to realize it.  It is easy to hide and put on a “happy” face like everything is fine while the whole time you are dying inside.  As I’ve already described, I remember praying that I would just die.  The pain was that intense and I was exhausted – physically, mentally and emotionally.  I just wanted it to end.  I eventually realized that as long as you allow yourself to remain in that type of mindset it isn’t going to end.  The pain is going to remain and in most cases likely become more intense.

So how do you break the cycle?  Get help!  For God’s sake, get help!  Reach out to a friend.  Reach out to a stranger.  Go to a counselor.  It is OK to admit you need help and to ask for it.  It is not a sign of weakness when you do so but rather a sign of strength. I realize it takes tremendous courage to decide to do something about changing your circumstances.  It’s hard, but we are all courageous people.  We all have that strength within us.  The hard part is that eventually, after much time of being in the darkness, we find ourselves comfortable with it.

Comfortable you may ask?  Yes, we tend to stick with what we know.  We all know people that are in situations, relationships, jobs, etc. with which they are not happy.  How often do many of them set out to quickly change their circumstances?  Typically, they will remain there because to do otherwise would cause them to act and by not acting they don’t have to do the work.  Why? Because non-action is easier than the strength it would take to do something.  That, to a large degree, is what being comfortable is all about.  I’m not saying it is a pleasant or desirable state of comfortableness but it is what we know and, pleasant or not, it is comfortable nonetheless to the person involved.

Eventually it becomes easy to just remain where we are.  It just seems like it would take a lot less work and energy so we accept that this may be as good as it’s going to get.  However, it’s not as good as it’s going to get.  There is so much more if you just have the strength and the courage to take that first step.  It really starts with a decision.  The decision that you are good and you are worthy not to remain where you are.  God created you in His image.  You are a prized possession in His eyes as well as all those in your life.  You matter and are deserving of joy.  All it takes is one decision to act.  One simple step.  Once you do that you will find that it isn’t so bad and that it becomes easier to take every subsequent step.  Soon, you will find that joy again and discover that you don’t have to languish alone and in the dark with your sorrow.  Just do something.  Reach out to someone.  If you don’t have anyone to reach out to reach out to me.  I’ll help you get started.

Be Great!  Be Strong!


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Let’s Not Make A Deal! Emerging From Grief Toward Wholeness – Part 4

So far in this series we’ve talked about denial and anger.  The combination of these two stages leads us to the third, which is bargaining.  When things aren’t going our way we eventually realize trying to ignore it isn’t the solution.  We also find that being angry isn’t changing or improving the situation so we begin to make deals, falsely believing it will change our circumstances.

When I still hoped that my marriage could be saved, I remember trying to make a lot of deals; deals with my wife, deals with God, deals with myself.  I just kept thinking, maybe if I change and fix all of the behaviors that my wife complained about over the years, things could go back to the way they used to be.  I did that and it just seemed to drive her further away.  Not only that, but how backwards was that thinking?  If I made changes then maybe things could go back to the way they were!  How screwed up is that?  I mean, the way things were in the past was THE leading cause of why we were where we were.  That thought process right there describes why bargaining doesn’t work and won’t bring back what has been lost.

From the beginning, I turned to God and pretended like I trusted Him to take care of me; to take care of my family.  The truth is, I didn’t.  That is evidenced by all the other deals I tried to make.  When I did finally pray, I prayed to God all the time to fix things.  I begged Him to save our marriage.  I selfishly cried out to Him to just take the pain away.  I really thought He wouldn’t let this happen.  I promised Him so many things – empty promises.  I didn’t realize that it was the choices we made as individuals and as a couple that would determine the outcome, not His intervention – at least not in the manner of how I was requesting His intervention.

I told myself and God that things could be different if only this or that would happen.  It was through all of this bargaining that I latched onto false hope – a false sense of security.  It doesn’t work that way.  It doesn’t matter what your beliefs are.  Our losses and the subsequent pain doesn’t just magically get reversed because we plead for it.  It doesn’t change because we suddenly find a higher power and say we believe and will do anything if it turns around.


Now, if we truly believe and realize that we can’t do it all on our own then things will get better.  That doesn’t mean that your life will return to the way it was prior to your loss.  It rarely, if ever, turns out that way.  In many instances, it shouldn’t.  Doing so wouldn’t be healthy for your well-being.  For so long I just wanted to have what I did before – companionship.  It didn’t matter what form it was or what it looked like.  I thought if I wasn’t alone I’d be complete; that it would make everything OK.  Oh, how wrong was I.  It wasn’t until I truly spent time alone and figured out who I was and became comfortable with myself, who I was, that I was even able to have a glimpse of what real joy looked like.  That was the moment when I realized I was the only one that was or could be responsible for my own happiness.  I wasn’t going to magically find it being with someone one else or filling my life with meaningless and unhealthy choices.  That’s not how it works!

We move past trying to bargain when we realize we have a choice.  That choice is to face our reality and realize that in some cases we need to choose to do what is right and honorable.  In other circumstances we may need to choose to accept what has happened and that there is nothing we can do to change it.  That doesn’t mean our lives are over or that we are destined to be unhappy and broken for the rest of our lives.  Quite the opposite.  If we face our reality and are able to work through that loss our lives will become richer because of it.  There is no doubt that loss is painful and we will always miss what was, but eventually we will get stronger and find joy again.  There is no deal we can make that will magically bring back what we lost, that will change our current circumstances.  We have to face that fact and make the choice to get up, brush ourselves off and move forward – to make something new for ourselves.

We determine our own happiness, not someone or something else.  That is probably your most difficult task in becoming whole again.  It is realizing that who or what you lost isn’t what made you who you are.  Were they important in your life?  Sure, but it isn’t what defined you.  Rather, it enhanced and complemented you – the true, beautiful person you are all by yourself.  You are still here and you still have a great life ahead of you.  You need to make a choice.  Is today the day you are going to choose to not try and control your growth and healing by making deal after deal? Rather, will you find the courage to have faith that if you do the work and realize you can’t do it on your own that you will grow and become more whole again?  The day you make that choice you will be stronger for that reason alone.

Be Great!  Be Strong!


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Why Am I So Angry?!? Emerging From Grief Toward Wholeness – Part 3

Eventually denial gives way to another stage.  Typically, that is anger.  I actually went back and forth between denial and anger quite often.  It seemed like a switch that some twisted and crazy mad scientist found great delight in turning off and on.  On any given day, at any given time, I could go from denial, which allowed me to have hope, to anger that could drive a sane person mad.  The key wasn’t in controlling the anger or making it go away, because it wasn’t going to, but to find healthy outlets for it.

There is not a person on this planet that hasn’t gotten angry about something or someone at some point in their life. So it is only natural that, without question, in every situation in my life when I experienced loss I got angry at some point along the way while I grieved.  If you can find someone that has experienced loss of any kind and hasn’t gotten angry, please give them my number because I want their secret.

Every time I have experienced loss I have gone through many emotions and have hit many of the stages of the grieving process.  In fact, when my marriage, ended I slammed into the different stages of grief more times than I care to remember.  Eventually though, I got angry; angry at my wife; furious at the former friend that played a significant role in it all; upset with those whose actions didn’t match their words to me; angry at God; just plain angry at anyone and everyone.  I was outraged and humiliated.  I felt betrayed.  I felt unwanted and unloved by the one person that I so badly wanted it from and it made me angry.  It was a dark place to be and I hated it.

If I had allowed that anger to consume me I hate to think where I might be today.  What I may have done.  Initially I didn’t know what to do with my anger.  Like many of the other emotions that come with loss, I felt that something was wrong with me and didn’t know exactly how I was going to overcome it and move forward.

The most troubling part of this stage is that once I got angry I stayed there – for a really long time.  That didn’t help my healing process at all.  The angrier I got the more bitter I became.  The bitterer I became, the more the anger seemed to build within me.  It was a very unhealthy downward spiral.  I was extremely unhappy and probably not very pleasant to be around.  This only fueled the darkness.

Angry Water

When you get that angry about something, the thoughts one has can be very scary.  Once the downward spiral begins it only increases in speed and is hard to pull out of if you aren’t doing something to deal with the pain.  It can be overwhelming and leave you feeling as if there is no hope and that you will never find happiness again, let alone be able to enjoy even the simplest things in life.

Know this though.  If you have ever experienced that type of anger or are even experiencing it at this moment, you need to know that you are OK.  In fact, you’re normal.  Sometimes, even to this day, the feeling of anger is something that I experience more often than I care to but here’s the interesting thing about anger.  It’s OK.  It is needed in order to heal.  It’s a natural emotion, one that shouldn’t be denied or suppressed.  I thought God would be upset with me for being so angry at everyone and everything, including Him.  Here’s the thing though, God himself is described as “slow to anger” – not “never angry.”  He isn’t going to condemn me or you or anyone else for that matter, for something that is natural to feel, something that we all needed to experience in order to heal and get past our grief.

So how do you deal with that anger?  Yes, that is the million dollar question isn’t it?  I’m going to say something that initially will seem counterintuitive – Embrace it!  That’s right, embrace your anger.  Get to know it.  Explore it.  When you do that, you will be able to figure out what it is; what fuels it.  Think about it this way.  Every war that has ever been won was done so because the victor studied and really got to know the tactics and tendencies of their foes.  Our anger is no different.  We need to understand it in order to defeat it; to overcome the hold that it has on us.

Once you understand it or at least partially come to terms with it, you have to deal with it.  The key to overcoming anger is to figure out constructive ways to deal with it.  If you deal with your anger in destructive and careless ways it will end badly.  You need to find an outlet for your anger that doesn’t harm yourself or anyone else in the process.  There are ways to do that and as long as you understand there is no quick fix you will eventually be OK.  Your anger most likely isn’t going to go away overnight.  It will, however, if you are working through it, progressively get less frequent and intense as you move from day to day.  Sometimes the best way to release it may be to go outside and scream at the top of your lungs.  Go ahead and curse like a sailor while you’re at it.  Let it out.  If that doesn’t work, lie on your bed and beat your fists and kick your feet like a two-year-old having a tantrum when they don’t get what they want.  Go for a run or to the kick boxing class at your gym.  All of these expressions are safe and appropriate outlets to deal with and get past your anger.

I flailed on my bed on numerous occasions screaming and crying like a baby.  I went on aggressive runs.  I’d go out in the woods and take my aggression out on a branch with the ground.  Sometimes I would just get in my car alone and drive with no particular destination and let it all out as I drove.  The key in all of these situations was that I was allowing my feelings, that torment, the anger to play itself out.  I did so in ways that were not harmful to myself or anyone else.  It was how I embraced my anger.  It’s how I got to know it, what triggered it, what would stoke it and eventually what calmed it.

You will be surprised that once you confront your anger and deal with it in appropriate and healthy ways you’ll begin to feel better.  The days won’t seem quite as long and you may even find that smile again once in a while.  The key is to not run and hide from this very painful emotion.  It’s OK to feel this way.  It’s not OK to allow yourself to stay that way indefinitely.

Be Great!  Be Strong!


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There is Nothing Wrong! Emerging From Grief Toward Wholeness – Part 2

Have you ever wanted something so badly that in your mind you already had it?  Have you ever been so disappointed that even though you didn’t achieve what you wanted you had yourself convinced that there were perfectly good reasons as to why you didn’t?  If we aren’t careful it is easy for us to fall into a state of denial regarding many things that really color our reality.

Often, when we grieve that is one of the first things we do.  (Click here to read the first post in the grieving series.) We deny what has happened.  That denial can take many forms, from refusing to address the loss you are experiencing to pretending that there isn’t any loss at all.  When that happens you aren’t broken and it isn’t wrong to feel that way.  It is part of the process you go through as you begin to let go of your loss and you begin to heal.

I have experienced many losses in my life but the most significant thus far was the loss of my marriage.  Notice the words I’ve used there; the loss of my marriage, not the loss of my wife.  This is an important distinction.  I most likely lost my wife long before I lost my marriage.  It was the concept of what marriage was that I was so desperately hanging on to and trying to save.  So, for me, when I talk about loss in this series I am referring more to the loss of my marriage.  I have, however, experienced all of these stages of grief in quite similar ways in other losses as well.  I am just using the loss of my marriage to illustrate the process.

Before I go on, I need to make an important clarification here and that is that the failure of my marriage wasn’t one person’s fault more than the others.  We both failed.  There was a time when I found it easier to specifically blame my wife.  It was the obvious and easy thing to do given how the marriage finally fully collapsed.  The truth is, I played a part into what got us there.  Someday I may write more on this but for now it is the overcoming of grief on which I want to focus.

Before my wife told me she wasn’t in love with me anymore, I already knew.  I already knew!  I just didn’t want to believe it.  I didn’t dare tell anyone what was going on because I was embarrassed.  Additionally, what if things did work out?  I didn’t want anyone to know we had problems or to think less of my wife.   More importantly, if I didn’t tell anyone it wouldn’t be real.  In my mind, as long as I refused it as the truth, I figured I could remain immune to it.  For me, the denial began before I even entered the “official” grieving period.  I was in denial!  As time passed, I learned a lot about what was going on and if I would have confided in anyone, they would have told me to wake up!  Despite all the evidence to the contrary, I just refused to believe what was in front of me and that my marriage was over.   The real truth was that I was unwilling to accept that I, we, had failed and would end up divorced.

I remained in denial for a long time.  As I said, I knew before my wife told me that she didn’t love me anymore that something wasn’t right.  As the months passed and I discovered heart crushing, gut wrenching facts about what was going on, more times than not I made excuses in my mind or rationalizations for what I was uncovering, what I was finding.  That’s denial folks! Right there, plain as day, denial!  I knew what the truth was; I just refused to believe it.  I wasn’t doing what I needed to do to move through my grief and past the denial.

I knew before I ever heard those difficult, soul sucking words – “I’m not in love with you anymore.” – that there was more to it and that my wife didn’t just fall “out of love” with me.  On the night that she told me she said she needed to clear her head and she left our home.  I know where she went because I went there.  I saw our van.  I confronted the situation.  Why did I know to go there that night?  Because I already knew but just refused to believe.  I was grieving and in denial before I even heard her say the words.


A big reason we spend so much time in denial is because when we do it gives us hope.  The problem with that is that it is false hope.  There is real hope out there for you when you are suffering from a loss of any kind but refusing to confront what is reality isn’t the way to get to it.  Soon after I told my parents what was going on, my mother gave me a small, old fashioned key that simply has the word “Hope” printed on it.  Over the years that little key has been given to others and even lost for a period of time.  It always somehow found its way back to me and today it is on my keychain and I carry it with me daily.  It is truly a symbol of what is inscribed on it.  It serves as a constant reminder to me that we can find real hope and overcome our denial by facing our fears and accepting our reality.  It’s not easy.  It’s hard! It’s scary and downright terrifying at times!

I’m no expert and I don’t have all the answers but I can offer some places to start.  Get a notebook and write down what you are feeling.  There doesn’t have to be any structure to it.  Just get your thoughts and feelings out and on a piece of paper.  You may never go back and read those words again.  In fact, you may never want to but it is a safe and personal way to begin to deal with what you’ve lost and will help to begin to heal.

Don’t be afraid to reach out; to talk to someone.  Please don’t suffer in silence and pretend that everything is OK.  Don’t deny your reality.  Find someone.  It can be a family member, a close friend, a professional or even God.  There is nothing wrong with talking to a professional.  It doesn’t make you weak or broken or less of a person.  The fact is, when we are grieving we are broken.  Embrace the brokenness.  Surround yourself with people that love and care about you.  Did you hear that?  People that truly love and care about you will be honest with you and they will continue to love you even through your brokenness.  You may not always like what they have to say but they will help you to face reality.  They are a key in helping you face the truth.

I remember early in my process I didn’t really know where to turn and found myself in the chapel on one of the college campuses in my town.  I prayed there.  It may have actually been the first time I prayed, really prayed, in quite some time.  I ended up contacting a priest that was there that I had been close to in high school.  I remember that he listened to my hurts and comforted me with his words.  When we were finished he asked if he could pray for me.  He took one of my hands in his and placed his other hand behind my head and he prayed.  I don’t remember the prayer or his words but I remember how I felt.  The Holy Spirit was in the room that day and I could feel it blanket me.  I sobbed as he held me, praying for me.  For the first time since the nightmare began I felt peace, if but for a moment.  I felt the hand of God touch me, letting me know that I would get through this; that I would not be alone.

If you are currently in denial of your loss, whatever it may be, your world may seem like it is falling apart.  I am here to tell you that there is hope.  You can get through it as long as you have faith, the strength to believe and the desire to change your circumstances.  Don’t give up!  Remain strong and continue to move forward.  Do the work and do not give up.  Day by day it will get better.  All you really need to do is deal with what is immediately in front of you, just one step at a time.

Be Great!  Be Strong!


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Emerging From Grief Toward Wholeness – Part 1

I’m not an expert.  I’m not a clinical psychologist.  However, I have lived.  I am human and have feelings.  I’ve been through loss. Some of the losses in my life I had every right to grieve.  Others I probably had no reason to grieve because there wasn’t anything to grieve about.  Sometimes that happens and it’s just as real for anyone who is going through it.  Through the next series of articles I am going to step through the different stages of grief and the process to get through them.   The process can apply to any type of loss, not just to my examples of loss.  This is from my experience.  I hope that some may find comfort in knowing that they are not alone in their suffering and that there is hope.

Whenever loss of any kind is experienced, we grieve.  Grieving is a normal and natural thing to do.  However, we have been conditioned to think that grieving is bad or it should be over quickly.  I believe something very different.  Experiencing grief over a loss is not only normal but healthy.  I discovered that I needed to allow myself the time and patience to really feel the stages of grief in order to emerge on the other end a stronger, healthier, more well-rounded individual.  In a way, I found that I developed a real intimacy with my grief.  It was something that I had to learn to embrace and work with rather than constantly fight it.  When I was able to do that I experienced the most significant growth and healing.  That has been the case every time I have grieved a loss in my life; whether it be the loss of my marriage, a relationship, friendship, death, job or countless other things.

I believe that when we grieve the loss of someone or something, a part of us dies with that loss.  It is somewhat spiritual in nature.  It leaves us with a sensation or belief that what we are grieving has been removed from our mind, our feelings, our heart.  However, the association of that loss in our mind, our heart and our soul is still very real.  Our feelings and memories are still very much alive.

Redrock Tree

It is not easy.  Many times, while moving through the process, it is easy to become stuck in a stage or fail to do the work to move forward.  Sometimes we think and believe healing has occurred when in reality, the primary issues haven’t been addressed.  It is easy to push away, to try and ignore or bury the feelings that are painful.  But, as a result, they fester and grow unchallenged until they can no longer be contained.  They can come back with even greater force and consequences.  It is when those feelings aren’t confronted and worked through that we experience a much greater chance of personal or spiritual death.

I struggled for many months, and in reality, years, over the destruction of my marriage.  For reasons I don’t fully understand, I began journaling almost immediately when my wife told me she wasn’t in love with me anymore.  I don’t go back and read those journal entries because that wasn’t my purpose for writing them.  They helped me work through the hurt and confusion I was experiencing.  They provided an outlet when there was nowhere else I thought I could turn.  It was that journaling, running and my deepening faith and relationship with God that got me through those days.  I am certain of that!

From memory, I’m sure those entries were full of despair, confusion, pleading and pain.  I remember that I had a very hard time working and even concentrating on the littlest things.  Eventually, I began to have anxiety attacks.  There was no rhyme or reason as to when they would hit.  It felt as though I was coming out of my own skin.  I really wanted to jump out of my body and just run away.  I couldn’t though.  I was stuck there; a prisoner to my own thoughts and feelings.  There were days I didn’t know if I could go on but fortunately I was being watched over and taken care of even when I didn’t realize it.

These feelings, the things I was experiencing, were very distinct moments in my grieving process.  There are several stages of grief.  They consist of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.  (I will step through each of them in subsequent articles.)  Early on, for months actually, as I experienced these stages of grief I thought something was wrong with me.  I felt broken and helpless; uncomfortable in my own skin.  I was lost and didn’t understand that I was moving through a process; a process that I had to experience and work through if I wanted to get better.  I was scared; terrified really.  I felt weak.  I wasn’t allowing myself what I needed to recover from my loss; the loss of my marriage, my family, my best friend.  The loss of intimacy and companionship.  I didn’t know how to or want to embrace my loss and move forward.  I was truly lost.  I was broken.

As I reflect back on the process I went through as I grieved the loss of my marriage, I can point out the different parts and stages.  It wasn’t always linear.  I went back and forth between the stages.  To this day, to some degree, I believe I still have instances where I move in and out of some of those same stages.  That isn’t to say I haven’t dealt with them and worked through them, but rather I am finding that “new” losses seem to crop up in life.  I find myself having to figure out how to embrace the loss and keep moving forward.  I find it necessary to remind myself that it is a constant process.  Just because I have worked through the issue doesn’t always mean I won’t have to address those same feelings again in either related or unrelated issues in the future.  I am always growing and as a result of my daily losses I have a choice.  Either I can confront them and come out a more complete man or I can let them take over and not live to my full potential.  That’s the challenge we all face when confronting our losses and the subsequent grief.

Be Great!  Be Strong!


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Big Sur Blessings

I was blessed enough today to be able to run a marathon.  If you were to ask me six years ago if I thought I would do that and enjoy it I would have told you you were wrong.  Not only would I have claimed you were wrong, I would have laughed at you.  A lot!  Today, I ran the Big Sur International Marathon from Big Sur, CA, along Highway 1 for 26.2 miles, to Monterey, CA.  It was an incredible experience!

The views were unlike any that I have ever seen during a race.  If for no other reason than those views alone, this race would have been amazing.  However, this race represented so much more for me.  I have been running races for six years now.  What running has done for me has far exceeded any expectations I could have ever had.

Big Sur Along the Coast

For the first time ever, I went into this marathon with no expectations.  I didn’t have a goal finish time for a race and the intention was to be in the moment and take in the beauty and comradery surrounding the whole day.  The run was a tough one.  It involved over 2,100 feet of climb and some pretty fierce head winds.  Any other day there may have been a lot of complaining and groveling but I heard none of that today.  Unlike many other races there was little spectator support because of the remoteness of the race.  That didn’t seem to affect myself, the group of friends I was running with or any of the other roughly 4,300 runners in the marathon on the course.  It was one of the best organized and run events I have had the opportunity to run.

What made this run different is what I realized out there today.  I know that God has blessed me immensely with the ability to be able to do these types of activities.  It is a lot of work to prepare and execute but I am fortunate and blessed to be able to do so.  It is through God’s grace that I am able to do it.  I have had many people not only tell me they thought I was crazy for some of the running adventures I have undertaken but I think their looks tell even more what they think.  Here is the thing though, running and in particular, being active, has presented me with opportunities that I didn’t even know existed.

Since I have begun an active lifestyle I have seen so many amazing and completely awesome parts of our world that I would have never had the opportunity to see if I wasn’t active.  I have run in the desert in Nevada, the Grand Canyon in Arizona and today along the Pacific coast.  These are just a few of the amazing places I have been blessed enough to experience.  It has certainly enriched my life and presented me with views that I have now forever imprinted in my memory.  I have pictures from many of these places and, although they are incredible, they pale in comparison to the amazing memories I have.

Big Sur Group Selfie

I also had the opportunity to spend the day with some close friends that are also incredible people.  Being active has provided me the opportunity to meet and become friends with a wide range of people that I may have never had the good fortune to get to know, let alone meet.  The stories you hear and the people you meet at these events, as well as the training leading up to them, will renew your belief in the human spirit like no other.  I have learned so much from many of the people I now know through being active not only in a physical aspect but a human aspect.  In fact, today, just as I crossed the finish line, I ran into running icon Bart Yasso.  I have used his Yasso 800s in my training several times.  He was gracious enough, in the middle of a race finishing around us, to take the time for a picture with me.  Thank you Bart!

The kindness and generosity of those in the active community are rivaled by none.  It has certainly allowed me to come out of my shell and be more outgoing.  It is because of my involvement that I finally have become active in many other things in my community.  Something that I’ve wanted to do for years but always was hesitant to do.  Being active and running in particular, has given me the confidence and courage to do that.

I know that being active isn’t for everyone and that is OK.  But you need to find something that gives you pleasure, satisfaction.  Find something that allows you to live!  Don’t just sit back and let life pass you by.  You need to get up and experience life.  You need to find what that is for you.  It is different for everyone.  I have been asked if I am worried that all this running and activity will cause my body to break down.  You know what?  It might.  Then again, it may not.  It may allow me to be more active and live longer.  The key is that it is something I have found that lets me enjoy life and see and do things that I may not have ever had the opportunity to do otherwise.  That is living!  We all need to find what that is for each of us and do it.  It reminds me of the quote from The Shawshank Redemption, “Get busy living or get busy dying.”  For the past several years I have been getting busy living and I have no plans to stop.  That just seems way more appealing to me than the alternative!  I hope you find something that makes you passionate and you get busy living!

Be Great! Be Strong!

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A Grand Adventure

A good friend of mine has often said he has never finished a marathon and thought to himself, “Let’s keep going!” I always agreed with him! Not once have I ever finished a marathon and wanted to keep running. It’s ironic then that this is the same friend who hatched the great idea that eight of us ended up doing – running across the Grand Canyon – and then back -in one day!

I spent that day in late September with seven other tough, determined, bad ass, incredible individuals.  There is nothing else that could describe those people given the accomplishment we all achieved.  We estimated that we ran 46-48 miles (GPS watches were a little touchy in parts of the lower canyon) in just a little over 16 hours and 37 minutes.  We all had our challenges that day but in the end true grit and determination ruled the day.

It truly was an incredible experience!  I feel so blessed that I was able to experience something so majestic.  I was in awe of this magnificent creation from God that I had the good fortune to experience as very few do.  It seemed that every turn revealed a view more breathtaking than the last one.  


I learned a lot about myself and the human spirit that day.  For the most part, we all stayed together that day and at different times each person had physical or mental obstacles they had to overcome but the rest helped lift them up and we continued to move forward – together. 

I initially thought I had learned a lot about myself on that run but in truth it was already there, waiting for me to realize it.  The run through the canyon just brought it all to light and allowed be to accept those truths and believe in them.  I am capable of anything that I decide to do.  Does that mean that if I want to become a professional baseball player at the age of 45 I can make that happen?  No, but what it does mean is that when I set a realistic goal and work hard at it I will make it happen.  I am here to tell you that you are capable of the same thing. You just need to believe! I think there were many people that thought we were crazy for attempting this and that we may not succeed – but we did! We persevered in spite of limitations others thought existed or may have questioned.

 I imagine that if you spent any amount of time in the Grand Canyon you would feel this way as well – small!  I mean, it’s hard not to.  The canyon is so large and vast that if you go off the trail you are literally taking your life into your own hands.  People die every year in the canyon because they go off the trail and end up getting lost and can’t find their way out.  I may have felt small many times that day, but I also felt the opposite that day – LARGE!!  In fact, I felt that way more often than not.  It is hard to explain but it was as though I was larger than life.  I felt so alive while crossing the canyon twice that day. 

One of the biggest lessons that came to light for me that day is that there is power in the moment.  We are so blessed in our lives but too often we are distracted or not paying attention to the beauty that is all around us.  It doesn’t have to be something as magnificent as the Grand Canyon.  It may be our children playing, the new baseball diamond in town, watching an old couple having lunch together while holding hands the entire time, or seeing new love in a young couple as they escape for an afternoon picnic at the park.  All of those moments have tremendous power to have profound effects on us if we let them!  If we just stop all the noise and distractions around us long enough to realize the beauty of that moment that we are experiencing.  That is what my trek through the Grand Canyon made me realize.  Do I do a great job of that every day?  No, but I have recognized I need to do better. I am working on it and by the grace of God I will continue to get better at it.  The joy I’ve gotten from trying so far has given me a glimpse into what true happiness can look like. 


That run marked the starting point of what I hope to be a new chapter in my life.  Just a few short weeks prior to running the Grand Canyon I closed a chapter in my life that wasn’t always pleasant and challenged me to my core.  I didn’t like that chapter in my life and really wish I hadn’t had to live through it.  Through the challenges, the pain, the happiness and the joy in the canyon that day I realized that that chapter, however painful, is a part of me.  It helped define who I am today.  The challenges it forced me to overcome have made me a better man today than I was prior.  Had I not gone through them I would not have been able to appreciate the awesome beauty of the Grand Canyon that day.  I would have missed it.  I would also still be missing so many other things that happen all around me every day. The reality is that I probably never would have put myself in a position to be in there in the first place. 

The challenges we face in life, however painful, are there for a reason.  If we work through them, trust in God, and don’t let them defeat us, we come out the other side more whole.  The reality is the challenges I faced prior to the run through the canyon that day made the actual run through it seem easy.  In the end, my life challenges, like yours, made me stronger and better to face the challenges that will surely lie ahead.  I know that I am strong enough to face them and overcome them, just like I did on that run through the canyon.

Be Great! Be Strong!


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Running Fearless

I have had many experiences throughout my life that have shaped who I am today.  It is easy to recall many of them and I’m sure there are countless others that I haven’t realized the full significance of yet.  I seem to recall many of these while I am running or doing any number of the active things I do.  It seems to be a trigger for me – a good trigger. Many times, the recollection helps give me perspective, not only on those memories but on anything that is currently going on in my life.

When I began running I had no idea what a significant impact that activity would have on my life, my well-being, and my journey from some of my darkest moments.  I didn’t start out like most people by beginning with a 5K or 10K.  No, when I decided to take up distance running, my first race was a half marathon.  After that, I continued to run longer and longer without training for anything in particular.  After running 20 miles one day with a friend he asked why I just didn’t sign up to do a marathon, so I did.  It was also during that time that my world was falling apart.  My seemingly good marriage was crumbling.  I told very few people, if any, about it.  Running seemed to helped take away the incredible pain with which I was dealing.  I didn’t have to face it when I was out there.  Initially, running allowed me to run from that which I was most afraid.

In more ways than one a new chapter had begun to be written in my life.  A chapter which, although extremely difficult and painful, would lead to significant change and growth.  I experienced a lot of struggles and self doubt during that time.  Eventually, I became acutely aware that knowing, accepting and loving yourself is, many times, a difficult thing to do.  However, you need to do that in order to be a healthy and complete individual.

I was devastated and shocked the night my wife told me she wasn’t in love with me anymore.  I had so many questions.  I was frantic for answers that she couldn’t and wasn’t willing to give me.  I had so lost who I was that I couldn’t comprehend what was happening.  I couldn’t imagine why it was happening.  How was I going to go on?  How would our kids survive this?  What would this do to our parents?  There seemed to never be an end to the questions, the fears, the huge apprehension.

Eventually, and I can remember this vividly, I decided that it was time to live.  I was tired of being a victim.  I wasn’t sure how to do it, but knew I needed to change.  I wasn’t going to sit helplessly in the corner anymore feeling empty and alone.

Red Rock Sunrise

It was at that point that I realized for a long time, probably years, I was so focused on my wife and trying to get her to love me that I stopped loving myself.  Wow! What a humbling realization!  Talk about a decision point in life.  I am good and I am of value!  It reminded me of a homemade banner that my parents had hanging in my room when I was growing up.  It read: “I am good and I am great ‘cause God don’t make junk!”  Words that I had read probably hundreds of thousands of times, but as I became an adult, somehow forgot.

It was shortly thereafter that I heard a simple but rather profound statement – “Tomorrow heals yesterday!”  Very powerful words and the reason I believe I have grown so much and become a much stronger person in the years since.  I am a better man, better son, better father, better brother and better friend.

I believe now more than ever that I have a purpose.  There is something that will define me and that I will leave for those that follow.  My divorce was definitely a defining moment in my life but it does not define me.  I won’t allow it to. In fact, it very well could have been the catalyst to thrust me forward.  The push I needed to not be afraid of taking risks to reach my full potential.

Many of the journeys that we are thrust into aren’t ones that we would necessarily choose but we have to travel them nonetheless.  Several years ago I remember hearing that the only way to deal with your fear is to go through it.  It reminds me of the old phrase, “When you are going through hell, keep going.”  If you can do that, then afterwards, it doesn’t have the same hold on you.  That is the challenge for many.  Do you have enough intestinal fortitude to keep going?  When faced with seemingly insurmountable and challenging obstacles in life I hope that every one of you have the strength to do just that – keep moving forward and refusing to quit!

I want to leave you with a quote from Jillian Michaels when she was talking to a contestant on The Biggest Loser.  I heard it shortly after my divorce was final and it has had a profound impact on me.

 “This is why overcoming fears is so important, because if you don’t overcome them you will bring them about in a dangerous way. It’s strength to show vulnerability.  Only strong people can accept when they are hurting.  Your emotions exist for a reason.

Your feelings exist for a reason.  They tell you when things are out of balance, when you’re going in the wrong direction.  They are a compass. They are meant to be felt and expressed and moved through so that you can grow.  And when you don’t, this is what happens to you.

Quitting is weak. True strength is digging into what is coming up inside of you right now because your feelings are real.  The feelings you are having are there for a reason and the more you deny them the more you end up here.”

It was at that point that running changed for me.  Rather than running from my pain, my problems and my fears, I started running towards them.  I used it as one of many ways to face all those things and move forward – to heal.  My hope is that you have found something in your life that has done the same thing and you can stop running from it.

Be Great!  Be Strong!

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