This week I want to share the very tough lessons I learned along the way. Just a warning, there are no white picket fences included, dreams come true speeches and time heals all wounds beliefs here. White picket fences can be included but not how you thought they would be.
Dreams come true but not in the way you think. Time heals something but not much. If you disagree with those that is totally fine no need to read further.
For the rest of us here we go:
Lesson 1. The old life is never coming back
No matter which way you look at it your life after loss will never be the same. Not even a little bit. Not even 10%. The sooner I realized this the more clear I started to see. If the physical world could change colors when loss takes place then we would be able to see that our life is a completely different color after loss. But we still see the old color. And that causes a fundamental problem. We try to fit back into the life we lost and we keep failing. The sooner we stop, mourn that life as if it never comes back, the sooner we can build a new one. The key here is that we grieve the life we lost, the invisible losses and the visible ones.
Lesson 2: A part of you will always be alone
When I realized that no matter how much you rebuild your life there is always going to be a part of you that feels all alone I was shocked. It didn’t matter how happy I was or how much I had done there was always this loneliness I felt. Loneliness is always going to be a part of you. And we have to learn to live with that. We are now changed forever and nothing can un-change us. It took me years to admit that. When I did, I made peace with the part of me that could not be fixed. And miraculously loneliness did not hurt as much after I realized that it is a part of the package. Someone who was a big part of your life left and nothing or nobody will be able to fill that gap. They are not supposed to.
Lesson 3: You are not the only one
I learned that tragedies happen in plural. It is not like once we get hit then we are safe. I meet thousands of people who have been through loss after loss, tragedy after tragedy. There are more people with multiple losses than with just one loss. And that we have to get good at life reentry, not because we have to overcome this one loss that just happened, but for all that is coming ahead. I still believe life is beautiful. I still believe life is worth it. But I also know that I better be ready to face all the losses that are coming ahead. If you love people then you will have many losses in your life. But that should not stop you from loving them. Ever.
Lesson 4: You must have an attitude
Feeling sorry for myself never worked for me. The more sorry I felt for myself, the worse my life got. The best thing we can do for ourselves is have an attitude and a stubbornness after loss. I know you didn’t expect me to say this but hear me out. Having an attitude requires a belief and trust in ourselves. It also requires a level of strength that we cannot access without an attitude. When I have tough days, when things don’t go my way, first I cry. I cry on my own, I actually like to cry on my own. Then there comes a point when the tears stop and that is when the attitude comes in. I put my head up high and step back on the road towards my life reentry. That attitude gets me up. Not much else does.
Lesson 5: The small things will give you the biggest joy
After my loss I had so many invisible losses. Some of the invisible losses were small and some big. But the small losses sometimes made me so sad. I remember dragging the trash barrel through the snow down the road and falling down and crying in the midst of the road because I had no help. The trash barrel was such a small loss but yet it brought me a lot of tears. To this day when I have help getting the trash barrel up the street I am beyond grateful. Every week. Every time. I say thanks for the help. There are so many other things that I am grateful for. These things will bring you the most joy. Not the big things. Yes, finding a life partner again or getting back on your feet financially are great things but never forget the trash barrels. Fill yourself with gratitude for a new dress. A new decorated room in your house. A new friend. A new show on TV. A new flower in your garden. To this day I carry happiness in my core because I have so many little things to be grateful for. Don’t wait for the big things to give you joy. It doesn’t work that way.
Lesson 6: Failure and lots of it.
Don’t be afraid to fail. You have gone through much worse. Don’t be afraid of the things most people are afraid of. You have gone through the unthinkable. You can do the impossible. You must remember this every single day. Unfortunately, if you put yourself out there after loss you will fail many times. You will lose again. You will get your heart broken again. None of these things are going to be any easier. But they will be worth it. And you can handle it. Yes, you can.
And remember I am no expert, I just like to speak the truth. I am here to tell you if you want a new life you have what it takes, but it won’t be as you imagine it to be.
There are no picket fences or prince on the white horse. The dead don’t come back to help us, the husband or wife that left you won’t change. Revenge doesn’t help. And you are not who you used to be. Just remember these things along the way and you will be ok.
PS. I have gathered the most bold and daring people who still want to come back to life regardless of the above. They are my tribe. I hope you come find us.
PPS. Here is the blog version of this letter, please share with your facebook friends and everyone who needs to read it.