My life changed radically in 1998. It’s hard to believe that seventeen years have passed since then. However, flashes from those days will stay with me as long as I live. Do you feel as though grief is the end of your story? For a time, I thought grief marked the end of mine.
Grief entered my life unexpectedly and abruptly. On a Saturday morning, my life seemed great. Everything was going well. By that night, authorities had informed me that my husband was dead. He had gone on a mountain bike ride – an ordinary mountain bike ride. How could he possibly be dead?
I’ll never know the real truth of that day. The bottom line is that his heart failed. The autopsy reports made no sense because they seemed in direct conflict with his lifestyle, physical fitness, and activity level. But the one thing that could not be disputed was his death. Though unbelievable, it was real.
Everything in my life changed instantly when John died. We had been married for almost 29 years (in fact, we had been married longer than we had been single). When I lost him, part of me died too. I barely recognized the ‘me’ who remained, and I felt like a stranger to myself. The pain was searing. And I could not envision any kind of life beyond that point. I had no idea what was in store for my future. I wasn’t even sure I had one.
If what I’ve written describes you, don’t give up. Don’t let grief have the last word.
Looking back seventeen years later, and after connecting with countless folks who have experienced all types of loss, I can confidently say that grief is not the end of your story unless you allow it to be. I’m not saying the way is easy. I’m not suggesting that grief is not painful, possibly more so than anything else you’ve known. And certain circumstances are tougher to face than others. Yet even though grief was the hardest thing I have been through in my life, and it took longer than I expected, my life did not end there. Grief does not have to be the end of your story either.
Hope Goes Hand in Hand with Grief
One thing I discovered (which I never expected) is that hope goes hand in hand with grief – if you’ll look for it. You won’t likely see it at first. In fact, you may need to search for it. And sometimes you have to work to fire up your hope. But it’s always there, just beneath the surface, trying to break out.
Whatever it takes to stir up your hope is worth the effort. Before I had the will to go on for myself, I kept going for my daughter. Find a reason to press on until your own will kicks in.
Each of us has one life to live, and the only constant is change. Life is a cycle, and how many times have you experienced an end – and then, the beginning of something else appears. My husband died, yet several years later, we were blessed with a little grandson. Somehow my daughter instinctively knew she was having a little boy. I believe he was a special gift from God to a daughter who lost her dad much too soon.
We Can’t Stop Change
We know that life is constantly developing and changing. We can fight change, and many of us do, but we can’t stop it. We’ll be much happier when we’re able to integrate the changes into our lives – and when we focus on hope rather than getting lost in our grief. Yes, feel your grief, face it, work through the pain, and then decide to live …
You choose how you’ll live and how you’ll face the future. You choose hope or despair. You choose – and not just once, but every day. You decide whether grief is the last word of your story – or not.
What happened will always be part of my life and part of the person I’ve become. I wish things had been different. But often we don’t get to choose what happens to us. We just get to choose what we do with what happens.
Grief does not have to define your life in a negative way. Turn grief into hope for your future. Allow grief to make you stronger and more compassionate. Have faith in the next chapter and the next after that. Don’t give grief the last word …
© 2015 Judy Brizendine
Photo © fotofrenze
At the End of the Day What Are You Focusing On—and Will You Survive or Thrive? – Judy Brizendine
What Hope Is—and How You Hang Onto It – Judy Brizendine
Grief: Finding Hope in the Darkness – Paul David Tripp
If Life Is Difficult, What About Grief? – Marty Tousley