I have some experience with loss. BIG loss. On June 1, 2010 at 2:34 p.m. I learned my 20-year old son, my only child, had died by suicide.
This was not a matter of the rug being pulled out from underneath me. This was the ground ceasing to exist. One moment the world made sense to me. The very next, nothing did. Nothing. Not even continuing to breathe or to live.
Several years have passed, and I miss my son every day. People often ask me how I’m still standing. They can’t imagine a worse thing happening to a parent. And that may be true. But somehow, I’ve managed to go from being a mother whose heart has been ripped from her, leaving a jagged, gaping hole…to being a functioning, contributing, relatively happy human.
In the first year or two after my son died, I was often asked if my life was getting “back to normal.” I’d cringe every time I heard that phrase: back to normal, as if life was ever going to get “back to normal”! Didn’t people understand what I’d lost and how nothing was the same and would never be again?
The truth is, there was something that I didn’t quite yet understand: that “normal” is a moving target, that “normal” changes as life unfolds before us, which – by the way – makes a new normal possible. And one day I realized I wanted to explore the possibility of my new normal, because I could not bear one more day of hideous pain defining my life. “Enough already,” my Inner Self whispered, gently and gradually moving me into a different head and heart space.
I’m living proof there IS life after loss. Even traumatic, tragic loss. And trust me; I’m no one special. I don’t mean that in a self-deprecating way. What I mean is that re-engaging with life after loss is possible for everyone, for anyone.
Loss can show up in one’s life in a variety of ways:
- the death of a loved one (a child, spouse, parent, even a pet!);
- an illness that is either terminal or life-altering (I am also a cancer survivor);
- the destruction of one’s home (fire, earthquake, flood);
- the scarring (physical and mental) of combat;
- the loss of a meaningful relationship due to a breakup or divorce (I can check this one off as well).
Although loss comes in all shapes and sizes, everyone who has experienced a major loss agrees on this one point: it hurts. Like hell. And grief always follows.
If you have a pulse, pain is inevitable. But suffering is not. Suffering – how we respond to pain – is optional. It will not seem so at first. In fact, if you’re in the earlier phases of grief, you probably want to tell me to take a long walk off a short pier. And I’m OK with that. I get it. All I can say, from a more distant vantage point, is: Hang in there. Time doesn’t necessarily heal all wounds, but time will eventually reduce the intensity of what you’re feeling in this moment.
People ask me how I did it. How did I go from wanting to die (seriously!) to wanting to live? There is no simple answer; there was no single action. It took more time than I wanted it to. And of course, what worked for me won’t necessarily work for everyone. Living with grief is unique to every human being, human soul, human heart.
Today I am a coach. Not a therapist. Not a grief counselor. I have a Masters of Arts in Counseling Psychology, my own life experience, and a curiosity about why certain strategies and resources worked when others didn’t. If you (or someone you care about) are in the early stages of loss and grief, and are looking for professional support…therapy or grief counseling is probably a more appropriate choice for you.
But if you are feeling the slightest inclination to step into YOUR “new normal”, and create a future for yourself that includes grief (because it most likely will), but also contains joy, beauty, love, meaning…then I would be honored to coach you into that future.
Contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org. We can work face-to-face if you’re local or via Skype. Our first hour of conversation is free.