"Bad things do happen; how I respond to them defines my character and the quality of my life. I can choose to sit in perpetual sadness, immobilised by the gravity of my loss, or I can choose to rise from the pain and treasure the most precious gift I have – life itself" Walter Anderson
March 27th 2005 I was in a hospital room with my family. I was in so much pain I could hardly breathe. My Mum had just died, three days after my father death.
My father had dementia and passed away peacefully in his sleep. I had lost my Dad 3 years before he actually died. Dealing with a father who had dementia was very difficult and a very emotional time for my family.
When I received the early morning call from my brother telling me Dad had died, I felt relieved and quite calm. Dad was no longer in pain and was at peace.
However when I got to the Rest Home and saw Dad, the grief overwhelmed me and I cried for the loss of my beautiful, loving, kind father.
My mother comforted me and we cried. My mother was a successful businesswoman, strong, courageous and resilient. She and Dad had survived the unbearable tragedy of losing a child. She had survived several health scares and had lovingly cared for Dad as his dementia progressed. They had been married 52 years.
My mother held my sister's and my hand as we walked into the cemetery. There were people everywhere, the sun was shinning and it was a hot day. People filed by my family slowly, hugging us and crying. I looked over to my mum and she was smiling. Suddenly she fell to the ground and it was then that my whole world collapsed. My mother was rushed to hospital and she died a few hours later.
The sudden loss of my parents was a life changing experience for me – my life would never be the same and my perspective on life changed forever.
In the very early stages of my grief all I could think about was my pain and my sadness. I couldn't even consider that there would be any lessons for me to learn as a result of losing my parents.
Over time I have come to realise that there are things that we learn from our grief and that these lessons are part of our healing. I also know that if we choose to open our hearts to embracing these lessons, our life over time slowly but surely goes from a languishing life to a flourishing life.
"In school you are taught a lesson and then given a test. In life, you are given a test that teaches you a lesson" Malcolm X
I love the quote from Malcolm X as he explains so well how we are taught our lessons of life – we have to be tested to learn the lesson.
Losing someone you love is a test of life and you have no control over the tests or challenges that life throws at you – what you do have, however, is the power to control your response to these challenges or tests.
I learnt 7 valuable life lessons as a result of losing my parents. I would like to share these 7 lessons with you to encourage you, to live your life to the fullest, to chase your dreams, to deal with the curveballs that life throws at you, to seize the moment and to treasure the gifts of life, love and laughter.
1. Live Your Life to the Fullest As It Can Change In A Blink Of An Eye
"Somebody should tell us, right at the start of our lives, that we are dying. Then we might live life to the limit, every minute of every day. Do it! I say. Whatever you want to do, do it now! There are only so many tomorrows" Pope Paul VI
If you have a dream but you are too scared to go for it "“ don't wait for the right time, as it never is the right time. Find a way and go for it.
After my father's death, my priorities changed. I realised that I needed to get clear about what was important and who were important in my life. For me it was my family and my friends.
I also found the courage to follow my dream. I have always wanted to be a writer, speaker and coach. For a number of reasons, mainly fear, I never fully committed to following my dream. I kept putting it off. I knew that I had to follow my dream because I didn't want to look back at my life when I was 70 and wish I had given it a go. Life is too short to have regrets!
Embrace life, take the time to make memories and cherish the moments you spend with the people you love. Get your priorities sorted and know what is important to you.
2. Family and Friends -Your Precious Gifts in Life
"Smiles add value to our face. Love adds value to our heart.
Respect adds value to our behaviour. Friends and Family add value to our Life" Unknown
The people you surround yourself with – your family and friends is your treasure chest. They are more important than all the money, the power or fame, the cars, the houses, the boats, or the overseas holidays you may have.
My family and my friends were my lifeline when I was feeling so much pain after the loss of my parents. I learnt such a valuable lessons about the importance of family and friends because without them I would not have survived or healed.
All these material things you gather, your fortune and your power are easy to get and easy to lose. If you lose your money, you go make more, if you don't like one house you go buy another and on it goes. The people in your life who love and support you, once you lose them you cant get them back.
3. Healing Is A Process – don't rush it.
"And so I wait. I wait for time to heal the pain and raise me to me feet once again – so that I can start a new path, my own path, the one that will make me whole again." "• Jan Canfield
Grief doesn't magically end after a set period of time. There will always be reminders in your life where your feelings of loss and grief will return. Overtime, however, you will find that your pain turns to a dull ache, then to sad memories where you cry, and then, after awhile, you will have memories where you smile briefly.
There will be days where you will want to hide away from the world, crawl into bed and pull the covers over your head. You should do it, though be warned don't use this time out as an excuse to hide away from the world forever. If you give in and stay hiding away it can make it difficult for you to pull yourself out of the dark cave you are in.
There is no right or wrong way to feel when grieving. It is a fluid process and different for everyone, so go with it. Don't fight it. Be kind to yourself and believe in you, your strength and your courage "“ the essential ingredients to healing you.
4. Use Your Power Of Choice "“ Choose to be hopeful.
"There is a saying in Tibetan, 'Tragedy should be utilized as a source of strength. No matter what sort of difficulties, how painful experience is, if we lose our hope, that's our real disaster." Dalai Lama XIV
We cannot control the bad things that happen in our life however we can control our reactions to these challenging events through our Power of Choice. Essentially, how we live our life is determined by how we choose to live it.
When we step into using our Power of Choice we are actively seeking solutions to deal with the challenges we have to face. Using our power of choice empowers us to recognise how we can move forward. To move forward we maintain our hope for a better future and with hope comes optimism and positive attitude to life.
This is very simple but we can sabotage living a happy life by not trusting ourselves to step out of our comfort zone. Choose to turn your adversity and challenges into a life – learning journey.
5. Find Your Purpose In Life
"When you lose something in your life, stop thinking it's a loss for you… it is a gift you have been given so you can get on the right path to where you are meant to go, not to where you think you should have gone" Suze Orman
Finding your purpose in life gives your life meaning. Knowing your purpose in life gives you clarity, focus and hope for your future.
Don't be overwhelmed by the journey to find your purpose in life "“ it is a big journey. Make a plan and take action "“ don't give up. Set realistic and achievable goals and take one step at a time.
Celebrate your successes "“ each time you achieve your goal no matter how small or how big, celebrate it and share your successes with those you love.
Happiness comes when you know what you are doing, believe in what you are doing and love what you are doing. The pursuit of your happiness is all about you living a meaningful life and when you find your purpose in life, you increase your happiness in life by 200 percent.
6. Don't Let Your Past Rule Your Life Now And In The Future.
"You can clutch the past so tightly to your chest that it leaves your arms too full to embrace the future" Jan Glidewell
Your past is your opportunity to learn the lessons you need in order to deal with your present life. Let go of your regrets in life, make peace with your past, accept it and move on. Don't waste your energy on what is not important. Focus on what you have, not what you don't have.
Look for opportunities for self-discovery and learn how to trust and believe in you. You are not what happened in your past, you are whom you choose to be now and in your future.
Become the strong empowered resilient person you desire to be. The person who looks forward the future and is living a happy fulfilled life.
7. Don't Run Away From Life "“ stay strong and embrace its unpredictability.
"Running away from your problems is a race you will never win, so just face them head on, and overcome them." "“ Unknown
Life is a strange and amazing journey, full of painful experiences and beauty. Running away from the challenges life presents to us is not the answer to dealing with life. When you run away the only place you can go is nowhere!
The pain, the discomfort and the challenges of life will follow you where ever you go. It is ok to fall apart for a little while but only for a little while.
Spend time on you, developing your strength and your resilience. Get prepared for life and be adaptable and flexible.
Remember that everything that happens to you is a life lesson "“ embrace life and never forget how precious the moments in life are.
" The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and found their way out of the depths. These people have an appreciation, a sensitivity and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen". Dr Elizabeth Kubler-Ross