When you are in the early days of loss, happiness can feel like a long-forgotten dream. Any little inkling that vaguely resembles joy feels surprising, in fact—a snippet of emotion so foreign amidst a sea of grief.
But as days turn into weeks and weeks turn into months, the sun rises and sets as it always has—and you step into living a new norm, even if it simply looks like going through the motions in a gray, thoughtless effort to sustain life. You may very well feel like you are living in a snow globe, merely witnessing other people while peering out of your small, safe space.
That’s how it felt to me on the few occasions I stepped out of the protective cocoon of my home in those early months of devastating loss. I remember walking up the stadium steps at my daughter’s soccer game just three weeks after Richard’s death and standing at the top as her team played. Weeks before, I’d been with my husband cheering them on, and now I peered out at the other families with sudden envy. Their lives were the same; mine was shattered. I mourned deeply in those early weeks and months. The process of reconciling what’s been lost with what has to carry on… it hurts.
What I found most interesting in those days, though, were the surprising glimpses of joy that would peek out like rays of sunlight beckoning me to more life. I had always thought that grief would only hold sorrow. What I discovered, though, is that in the present moment there is always the possibility to find light and peace.
As I tuned into the present moment, I could learn to live with grief in the same way a person might live with the life altering reality of cancer. While a darkness exists, it does not define us. While we can’t wish it away, we can choose to set our minds on other things—finding courage, claiming healing, trusting the passage of time.
Eventually, my joy grew and my pain dissolved. There is a point where for each of us our suffering becomes optional as we let go.
Joseph Campbell said, “You have to let go of the life that is planned in order to live the life that is waiting for you.”
That’s a beautiful quote, right? But the truth was, I liked my life as Richard’s wife. I wanted that life back. Letting go of what was planned—us writing books together, raising our girls together, growing old together—was hard, and I didn’t want to embrace anything else. If you’ve known loss, you may feel the same way. It’s normal to long for “how it used to be” and ache for the days before devastation encompassed your heart.
Yet deep inside of me (and the same is true for you), I knew I was being called to something greater. Something was being asked of me. Something was waiting for me to step into it. There was an adventure ahead; I just had to choose it.
Joseph Campbell also said, “The hero/heroine gives his/her life to something bigger than oneself.”
The heroine within me rose like the phoenix from the ashes. Out of my despair has come immense beauty—and a clear call to share my story. I hope to honor that call and help the world awaken from a deep slumber, one that I had been unknowingly sleepwalking in for years prior to my heartbreak.
Now, through the portal of pain, I am awake and living my most vibrant life. (And I hope, inspiring others to do the same.)
I am a hero… and you are too. Will you answer the call to transform your losses into purpose? Will you accept the invitation to heal, and as you do, embrace the epic adventure of your life?
By the way, if you haven’t heard, the way I am answering that call to share my story is through my upcoming book, From Heartbreak to Wholeness: The Hero’s Journey to Joy. It’s available June 12, and you can learn more here.