When my son died in 2010, in those first few weeks and months, I had a hard time feeling as though my life still had any meaning. Being a mother to my son had imbued my life with meaning; motherhood was my purpose. He was my raison d’être, my reason for being.
Perhaps a little too co-dependent for my own good, but that’s how I rolled back then.
His death brought that whole life construct crumbling down. I was adrift. His death seemed random and pointless, and I believed my life no longer had meaning. I felt useless, and that I was taking up precious real estate on this overpopulated planet.
Which was ironic and troubling because that is probably exactly what my son was believing and feeling when he consumed the two bottles of pills that ended his life!
When we lose our sense of meaning or life purpose, we become untethered from this terrestrial and embodied existence.
In the ensuing years, I have worked tirelessly at finding a purpose again. People have repeatedly asked me (when they learn I am a mother who no longer has a child) how on earth have I managed to come back – “whole” – from that tragic loss? I gave myself a sense of purpose again. I gave my life a new meaning. And this allowed me to make meaning of my son’s (once senseless) death.
There were a few false starts. I floundered for a while. But my intention – to find a new purpose for my life – became my new “true north.”
My new purpose was to keep the conversations about death, mental illness, suicide, grief, loss – topics that are often taboo in “polite” company – out in the open. Closeting these conversations, enshrouding them with shame, was only going to result in more misery, and possibly in additional suicides of individuals who never felt safe revealing their internal struggles. I wanted more than anything to put an end to that.
So I told my story. I still tell my story. I write about it and podcast about it and I’m sure I bore people to tears, especially those who know me well and have heard me talk about this over and over and over.
But I am on a mission.
When I’m at a networking or social event, meeting people for the first time, and I’m asked (that oh-so-boring question), “And what do you do?” I respond, “I’m a grief recovery specialist,” and I get one of two responses: either people go, “Oh that’s nice,” and turn to start a conversation with someone else; or they begin to tell me their story of loss…which I welcome, and am honored to bear witness to.
There are many wounded souls walking amongst us, starving to tell their stories of loss, to be seen and heard in their suffering.
Today I have a reason to get up in the morning, to get out into the world, to connect with others. For a while there, that was not the case. You too can make meaning of your loss(es), and assign a new purpose for your own life after loss.
You begin by being willing. It is that simple. But I’ll be honest: it is not easy.
If you’re having trouble making this paradigm shift, perhaps we can work on it together. It would be my privilege. This is intimate work that requires vulnerability and honesty. Maybe it’s too soon for all that; but maybe, just maybe, it’s not.
Many people supported me as I “re-purposed” my life. My work today – grief counseling – is my way of paying it forward.
Comment below and tell us how you found your way again. Contact me if you want to continue this conversation privately at: firstname.lastname@example.org