About four years ago, on a night that is burned in my memory, my wife passed away suddenly at the age of fifty. I was 54 years old and became a widower overnight.
Now, with the passage of time and passing of many seasons when I reflect back on what I learned, I think there are some valuable lessons life taught me. I learned those lessons in my mind, in my heart and in my soul. When you go through the searing fire of tragedy you also learn a lot about yourself. It is my sincere hope that you may learn some from my lessons too.
You are stronger that you know. The human spirit is very resilient, and I think we are more resilient than we know. People I have talked to that have been through tragedy almost all tell me they are actually stronger than they even knew. As Muhammad Yunis once said "Human beings have enormous resilience." The first week after my wife died, many people commented on how strong I was. I didn't realize I had the strength, but I do. You do too, you just don't know it yet. Loss can cause you to dig deep down into your soul and find your reserves of resilience.
You can have hope for a bright future. I have been a motivational speaker and book author most of my adult life. Even in my darkest hours, I always knew that someday I would be happy again. I would sit in my living room, being sad, but at the same time thinking where I would a year or two later. The future was always bright place. It called practicing optimism. You choose which path to take, pessimism or optimism. As Helen Keller once said, "Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence." I always knew I would find love again. I did find love again and today I am married to an amazing woman named Rachael.
You don't have to abide by the rules. When people are grieving other people try to put rules on them. (I don't know why) Those rules are either direct or implied. There is a whole collection of rules about a people grieving on how they are supposed to act and feel, what they are supposed to do, how they are supposed to live their lives. One implied rule is you have to wait a certain amount of time after you have lost a loved one, before you date. I decided early on that it was my life and I would not follow the rules. No one can tell me what to do and they have not right if they haven't walked in my shoes. About four weeks after my wife passed away I went to an amusement park. I was a nice day and I like amusement parks. Some people were shocked I did that as if it was against some rule.
You deserve to be happy. After a loss, there is almost an expectation that you shouldn't be or can't be happy. Well that is some crazy thinking- why can't you be happy? The person that is no longer here would want you to be happy. You have suffered enough. Should you suffer more to show the world how dedicated you were to the person who died? Life is way too short to be miserable. Yes you can survive loss but also thrive.
You are not alone. Once I became a widower, I discovered lots of books on grief and realized I was not alone in my experience. Many other people had experienced loss and tragedy. As I traveled around the country and told people my story- I have found many other people had their own crushing stories of loss and tragedy. Sometimes when we experience loss we feel are alone and feel like no one else would understand, by there are many people who do understand. There are also kind souls who care and will help you, just because they love you.
That is what I have learned- and all things that can help anyone experiencing grief. Ann Roiphe once said "Grief is in two parts. The first is loss. The second is the remaking of a life."