Grief is in two parts. The first is experiencing a loss. The second is the remaking of life. – Anne Roiphe
How I am Dealing With Tragedy
It was Christmas eve and he was five years old. He was dressed in his pajamas; the top was white, and the blue pants had feet to keep his toes warm. He was sitting on the landing of the stairs out of sight, watching his father put together Christmas gifts for him and his three brothers. It was at that time he realized there was no Santa Claus.
He thought to himself, “Who’s going to save me now?”
That’s when the depression started. It was a habit he learned at this very early age.
When things got tough he would go inside and protect himself by wrapping the cloak of depression around him. It was his way of protecting himself from feeling helpless. Here is where he learned what helplessness really was. The depression protected him. He went upstairs and put himself to bed and cried himself to sleep.
That is how I felt when my son died on May 30, 2017 at age 35. I would never wish that upon anyone else.
I found grieving to be a two-step process. You must grieve. You must experience the loss, and it is painful or it will forever define you. Grieving is a trying time filled with sorrow, anger, frustration, depression, embarrassment and sometimes, joy. You might experience all those emotions at the same time, a wild rollercoaster ride to be sure.
After you grieve, and it does take time, there comes a time when you start to rebuild.
Everything I believed in, I questioned. Everything that I held as important is not. I learned I can grieve and rebuild at the same time. It is not easy. However, I am determined to find something positive in this experience, I decided to use this opportunity to share with you what I learned.
Though these are difficult times, I have learned so much. I share some of my learning in the hope of helping others through any difficult times they are experiencing.
I learned I have no control over outcomes. I can influence them, but I cannot control them. The feeling of being in control is an illusion.
I learned the only thing I have any control over is how I choose to think, act and feel.
I learned humility. A lot of things I once held as important are not. Not the books I wrote, the awards I earned, the black belts I hold.
I learned compassion. I would wish no one to experience the pain of losing a loved one.
I learned to forgive. Forgiveness brings me comfort and hope.
I learned gratitude. The friends and family who supported me during these trying times are priceless. You have my gratitude.
I feel grateful for being comfortable with another’s persons’ pain while meeting them where they are.
I learned there is little value in judging another.
I am learning I want to stop judging. I have a long way to go here but I now know I have little to no understanding of why someone does what they do except that they are trying to take care of themselves. Taking care of yourself is a good thing. How it is expressed may not be.
I learned the value of ownership. If I cannot own what happens in my life I cannot change it or choose how I want to respond. It is my life and I want to be inner-directed and not be concerned about what others think. If I march to a different drum than accept me for the dance I chose or leave me alone.
I learned the impact I have on others even when I do not know I am having an impact. Therefore, I want to be thoughtful about what I think, say and do.
I learned I do not want drama in my life and it is my choice to accept it. When drama comes it can be a powerful source of learning.
I learned I am not responsible for how you feel. How you choose to feel is your choice and it has nothing to do with me.
I learned about the deepest pain a person can feel and realize there are always gifts if I am willing to look hard enough.
I learned material things will not change anything. I can be as happy or unhappy as I choose. It is not dependent on material things, though money can sometimes make it easier.
I learned being happy is a choice. Being happy is a decision. Happiness is not being giddy or loud, but a sense of peace and acceptance this too will pass.
I learned the value of having a personal relationship with God. Though I do not yet trust him, God does not test me or bring sorrow. He does comfort me if I let him.
I learned people really want to help during times of personal tragedy, but they don’t know how.
I learned I am responsible for all that happens to me and how I choose to react.
I learned how much I miss my son.
I learned how much I value my daughter
I learned a deeper love a grandfather can have for his grandson.
I learned to value my wife more than ever.
I learned I have friends I never really treated as friends.
I learned that I must forgive myself.
I learned I must forgive God.
I learned I don’t remember what I learned most of the time and that’s ok. The universe will keep sending me the same lesson in different forms until I learn it.
With that said, I learned I really don’t know much!
Be patient with people who experienced a tragedy. The simplest act can bring tears. Do not judge, do not assume, ask. Give us time to heal. We all heal at our own pace.