Lesson #1: There is life after loss—for sure
I bought a single stem peony plant years ago and planted it in my backyard with little expectation since I was not blessed with a green thumb. One flower bloomed beautifully that year for a few weeks but then it died in winter. I didn’t know what to expect. I’ve never planted a peony before. It was very possible that I accidentally killed it, just like I’d done in previous effort to plant different flowers. But I was pleasantly surprised that it grew back and produced four flowers the next spring! What a miracle. I grew a plant myself! This process of dying during winter and returning in spring with more flowers keeps repeating itself that at some point, I simply anticipate the emergence of many more flowers each spring!
The same process happened in life. When I met Marlin, I was that weird, plain Jane many boys rejected all the way through college. I declared myself as someone who had no green thumb when it comes to growing love. But he was the perfect flower for someone like me because love grew between us and yielded a beautiful relationship—for the most part. When he died, I didn’t think I could reemerge in spring, let alone yield more flowers. But I did. Yes the winter was harsh and part of me died. But what I realize now is that in the midst of winter when the days are longer and darker, and the nights are colder and lonelier, I am actually preparing for growth. And as long as I don’t give up, spring will always come around and I get to see the sun again.
Each winter represents the many struggles and secondary losses I have experienced since that first loss. Each winter, I wanted to give up because I couldn’t see the signs of spring fast enough. But eventually, I learned to trust that winter doesn’t last forever. In fact, it is through those winters that I learned to remember how strong my roots are, how much potential I still have within me, and if I hold on until winter ends (it always does) that spring returns (it will always do), then I can face any seasons with compassion as I observe what it brings to me. Over time, these constant changes have less power over me.
Sure the first few winters were the longest, darkest, coldest ones and it was not easy to believe spring would ever come. But as time goes on, I am getting better at focusing on how many more new flowers will come out each spring.
First flower represented my capacity to raise a child as a single mother, next bloom was the graduation from Bradley. More flowers follow suit. I got my first job, bought a house, wrote a book, bought a car, and got the opportunity to experience different jobs. Jobs I thought would never be on my resume, such as teaching a college level class, even a graduate level course, teaching workshops I designed myself and eventually, going into a full-time private practice. So, yes, winter will come again. It is inevitable. But how I see it and respond to it is within my control.
Loss is part of life. We will experience it again and again. We can become jaded and bitter, or we can focus on what good can come out of it. We have the choice to transform pain into purpose.