I lost both my father and my uncle shortly after turning twenty four.
Two important male presences vanished from my life, just like that. If this ever happened to you, then you know that nothing you’ve experienced before can prepare you for the days, weeks and months after.
And as a young man just out of college, their guidance could have prevented many mistakes I made afterwards and will make in the future.
In my experience, the well known seven stages of grief have been more of a zig zag than a straight line for me and I’m sure most who have experienced the passing of someone close would agree.
Equally true, is that everyone’s journey through the different periods of mourning is unique to the individual. Nonetheless, let me give you a few valuable lessons from what I’ve learned along my own journey.
Choose how you respond.
We may not be able to control many of the conditions or situations in our lives, but we can, undoubtedly, choose how we react to them.
Our response to difficult moments is of our choosing and when once we understand this our potential is infinite.
Choose to push through obstacles instead of allowing them to subordinate your goals and debilitate you from going about your day.
In Man’s Search for Meaning, Austrian neurologist, psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor wrote “when we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”
We are truly tested when we are at our lowest and nothing defines you character more than how you respond.
Continue working towards your goals.
Nobody lives a tragic free life. Life will take you through twists and turns and most often it will happen unexpectedly but’s important that we do not allow those moments to veer us off from our goals and ambitions.
For a few months, I was bedridden and incapable of doing anything productive. Eventually, as time passed and wounds slowly healed, I told myself that I never wanted to repeat that downward spiral again.
So I began exercising again, carrying a journal and meditating. Take care of your mind and body and push forward every day.
I know that both my father and uncle would want me to continue to persevere and continue to work towards the life that I want for myself.
Practice gratitude and be there for your loved ones.
After losing someone you love, it’s easy to ask yourself “why”, instead of taking time to appreciate the moments you had with them and it’s difficult to understand how finite life is, especially when you’re young. Nonetheless, experiencing death certainly puts things into perspective.
My uncle has two daughters, both younger than me and are practically my sisters. When their dad passed away too I knew that I had a responsibility to look after and protect them.
They now feel the same pain and emptiness as I do and because so, I pushed myself even more to be there when they would need me.
I make sure everyday to reach out to them, my mother, sister, and other loved ones. The bonds that I have with them now are stronger than ever before.
Build stronger relationships with those around you and appreciate what you have more than what you don’t. I’ll most likely never fully recover after a tragedy like this but I know without a doubt that through this journey I have grown in completely unexpected ways. I’ve learned to give myself more to my family and friends instead of looking inwardly.
Now by focusing on others, I’ve found strength, joy and meaning once again. And you will too.