Grief: Life’s Greatest Teacher

I live under the clear assumption that we all chose to be here in some way, shape, or form. Before being born, our lives were mostly pre-determined, with the exception of free will. For whatever reason, my soul chose to be here and go through the heart-wrenching grief that it has, in order to master some universal life lesson that I didn’t quite get to in any of my previous lives.

I think that is why some of the wisest, strongest, oldest souls we know have the most challenging lives. We wait until the end to finally learn the hardest lesson of them all: letting go.

And this lesson takes the entire lifetime to learn, and there is no guarantee you will master it. In fact, there’s a good chance you’ll be back again (and maybe again) for another shot at finally getting it right. Nobody likes or wants to let go of the things and people in life that mean the very most to us. We don’t like to let go because that would mean grief and pain and loss become our reality. These are all necessary evils in life that we avoid like the plague. We don’t like to be uncomfortable, we don’t like change, and we really don’t like to relinquish control. That’s why it’s the hardest lesson to learn, and it takes a LOT of heartbreak and suffering to finally understand and learn the significance of letting go.

I lost my husband and my dad in the same year, and I’m still trying to relearn how to walk. Losing them didn’t immediately teach me anything except the universal truth that nothing in this life is permanent. Nearly three years later, I am still struggling with letting them go because it would also mean letting go of a version of myself that I don’t know how to rebuild yet.

Since then, I’ve come to realize that I’m not unique. Everyone has a story, and beyond that, just about everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. People lose their people every single day. Grief surrounds us, and once you lose someone you couldn’t fathom living without, it permeates your entire existence. It changes you to your core. This is a normal part of life, but for whatever reason, people don’t talk about it. It’s like the big elephant in the room that everyone pretends they can’t see and feel until they have no choice but to face it.

Grief has made me feel the size of a grain of rice and as large as a mountain top…all at the same time. It has convinced me that I am both incredibly ahead and devastatingly behind in the normal pattern of life. Most people don’t say goodbye to their parents until they are nearing retirement. They usually have a spouse and children that grieve this loss along with them. I said goodbye to my father after losing my spouse and without any children. I went back to work a few days later because I couldn’t afford not to while living on a single income again. I said goodbye to my husband not even a week after receiving an infertility diagnosis at the age of 25. I hadn’t even processed that before having to process something exponentially worse.

Grief has taught me that many things in this life are not my fault, but they are still my responsibility. It is a horribly sad thing that I have been dealt the cards that I have in my life, but my healing and how I choose to move forward is still 100% my responsibility. Those losses are not my fault, but the aftermath is my burden to face.

I am working each and every day to make peace with where I am in my life now compared to where I expected to be. I am not just grieving the loss of the people that died, but also the picture in my head of what I thought my life would look like at age 28. I am learning to have gratitude for what I do have and not resentment for what I don’t. This is a much harder balance to achieve than I ever would’ve anticipated. I am learning to give myself grace. No matter which way you spin it, this is hard work. Letting go and embracing life right now is forever my greatest challenge. I can’t promise I’ll master it in this lifetime, but you can be certain that I won’t stop trying. I owe it to myself and the people around me that are still here and love me very much to keep fighting.

In the words of my greatest widow role model, Nora McInerny, “I’m Still Kickin‘.”

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