Lesson # 8: Let your loved one off the hook!
Loss changes us in so many ways. Some of the changes are drastic and sudden, while others are more subtle and gradual. But one thing is certain, we perceive the loss as the originator of all those changes.
I went from having a husband who took care of a lot of things, to a single mother who had to manage all aspects of the household by myself. I remember staying up with a sick daughter, going to the ER because she swallowed a paperclip, or calming her down because she was scared. Oh there were many nights like that where I wished I had a partner to share the responsibilities with.
Going back to school was challenging. It took me a long time to read and understand what I was reading. I had several dictionaries to help me with that, not to mention some friends who would explain things to me just to make sure I didn’t misinterpret things. After all, who would go to Wal-Mart to buy a can of elbow grease? Well, I did.
This was not what I had in mind when I said “I do” to my husband that beautiful June of 1992. I thought we would enjoy having a nice, spacious home with two kids and two dogs, while my husband would pursue his dreams and I would home-school the kids. And close to his retirement, we would switch roles. I would go back to school, get a masters and doctorate degree in psychology and pursue my dreams while he would manage the household. I thought we would travel the world and grow old together.
None of those dreams will come true now. If he hadn’t died, if he had taken better care of himself, he would have been alive today and my life would have been easier. I wouldn’t have to struggle and worry so much. Darn you! How could you let this happen to me and your daughter? What will happen to my future?
Before I knew it, I got into the habit of blaming him and his death for every little thing that didn’t go my way, for circumstances that challenged me, and for obstacles that pushed me away from my original dreams. He ruined my life! Or so I told myself.
A few years back, a friend who is a medium told me that my husband wanted her to tell me to bury him. She said he was sorry for leaving me, but that it was time for me to live my life as my own, to believe in my own power, and to stop using grief as an excuse not to shine.
Bury him? What’s that supposed to mean? I was upset for a long time but eventually I understood the message. Sure I had scattered his ashes and let him go that way. But mentally (unconsciously) I was still holding him responsible for all the difficult things I had to endure. I felt I had the right to. I was not wrong. I knew my feelings and they were not wrong. Yet dwelling in them for years didn’t do me any good; it only dimmed my inner power.
How could I shine brightly if I had been too busy blaming him and feeling sorry for myself? How could I feel alive if I had been so wrapped up in own regrets, guilt, and resentment? There wouldn’t be any energy left in me to get to know the real me, to recognize my own strength, to see my own brilliance.
His passing, sad at it was, was not meant to devastate me. Rather, it was meant to give me a very special opportunity for the expansion of my heart and soul so that my heart would get stronger, my dream wilder, and my courage bigger. It was meant to cultivate resilience, flexibility, and endurance for the once-in-a-lifetime marathon called life. I’ve trained hard. I’ve sweat blood. I’ve endured pain. I am still in the race! And I will finish strong!
The moment I was willing to let him off the hook, the authentic, unencumbered me was born--only adolescent by now, a long way to go toward maturity. But I’ve learned to grow a pair of wings. He could still be the wind beneath my wings but I was (and will continue to be) the one exercising them, getting them stronger and using them to fly, to soar above the sky. If I find myself not flying; if I don’t feel like flapping my wings or choose to rest them and never fly again, I cannot say that he is the one who pulls me down. But I can explore what causes me to land on the ground. Is the wind too strong? Is the sun blinding me?
His death altered my life but hadn’t ruined it. It hadn't taken away my capacity to dream, to love, to keep learning, to imagine a beautiful future, to trust myself, to trust life.
Look inwardly and ask yourself some serious questions. Do you blame your loved ones’ passing to be the source of your unhappiness, the reason you failed, or the cause of your bad behavior or habits? What do you really feel? What are you saying to yourself? What do you need? What do you want? What are some new choices that will help you feel alive again? There are many more questions you can ask yourself to get to your truth.
Be still and listen to the honest answers within yourself. Your inner wisdom is talking!