What loss taught me

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Unless you have been through a terrible, fall-to-your-knees loss in your life, what I share may sound crazy, as abstract and airy as rainbows or unicorns. I understand, because I used to think that way myself. I used to believe concepts like meditating or making “gratitude lists” were for those spiritual gurus who live in California and attract seekers who make pilgrimages into the desert to hear their words.

That was until my world fell apart, and I was forced to deal with the question of how to move forward.

When my husband died, my whole world changed, and with it my perspective on life. When loss of the worst possible kind happens, when someone we love dies, and we must figure out how we will go on, we are required to learn how to live all over again. In the shock of loss, we are numb; we feel desperate and so overwhelmed by grief that it is paralyzing. But once the numbness wanes, the fog lifts, the casseroles stop coming – once we are left with the necessity of moving forward, alone and scared – we are also granted a new set of eyes, a set of eyes that provide us with a new perspective and the opportunity for a new way to be.

What my loss taught me changed my life, my perspective, and my way of being, forever.

Loss taught me:

1. Be grateful

– even for things that may seem like a chore. For example, I pack lunches for my children every day. This was once felt a dreaded morning ritual, one that made me feel like I was caught up in an ever-repeating “groundhog day.” Once I brought the notion of gratitude to the practice of packing lunches for the kids, I began to see it as a reason for gratitude. Now I’m thankful for that chore that once felt so onerous. Making lunch for my kids means I get to be their mom another day and show them my love. How lucky is that?

2. Cherish the moment.

Once you learn that anything and anyone can be taken away at any moment, you begin to cherish even the most ordinary of moments. It is easy in life to take the most basic things for granted. Yet these are the same things that we miss the most if they are taken away. A hug in the morning from someone you love may be the most simple and ordinary part of your day – and yet it is a moment to cherish, every single time it happens.

3. Be present.

Take one day at a time. In the time that follows a loss, looking at anything more than the present moment can feel overwhelming, so taking it one day at a time may be all we can do. What we come to notice in this experience are the little things that we have missed for so long: the beauty in the sound of a bird, or the healing of a friend’s touch, or the joy in watching children play. Savor every moment.

4. Always hug the ones you love good-bye.

You never know when it will be the last time that you see them. This does not need to come from a place of fear, but rather love. Just always come to those from a place of love, and you will feel peace without regrets.

5. Be positive.

You are alive. Every day is a gift. Treating each day as less than that is nothing more than being ungrateful. Savor the day and make the most of it. To spend a day in worry, regret or fear is a complete waste of time.

6. Go for it!

None of us knows how much time we have. What are we waiting for? The timing will never be perfect; the circumstances will never be perfect; you will never have enough money or be successful enough, so stop making excuses and get on with it. Leave the job you hate, spend time with your family, and stop letting money sit in the driver’s seat of your decisions.

7. Let yourself just be.

Stop worrying about what others think of you. Their opinions are not your concern, and other people are actually far less focused on you than you imagine anyway. You owe your life to one person – you. So get out on with it. Start living, today – whatever that looks like for you.

8. Be compassionate to YOU.

You are doing the best you can. Recognize and acknowledge that fact. Forgive yourself for not being perfect and love yourself anyway. Love yourself the way you would love your child or you best friend. Love yourself the way you love others, and notice how good you can make yourself feel just as you are.

It doesn’t have to take a major loss to slap you awake into what really matters in your life. You can start to make adjustments now and live your life in a way that is more alive, deliberate and loving now, without any reason other than that you have made the choice to do so. Be good to you.

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