How Loss Redefines You-Refines You

I spent many years trying to figure out exactly who I was and who I wanted to become. As a young girl I was torn between wanting to be a teacher, an actress, an architect and a writer. I actually didn’t make up my mind as to my chosen profession until I was a sophomore in college. I was one of those people who was intrigued by so many career possibilities,and I was inspired by the stories and the biographies of my favorite childhood writers.I wrote throughout my life short stories, poems, journals which today would be considered mini blogs, never knowing that eventually this is what I would end up doing. Sometimes we think we’re fulfilling our purpose when in fact,due to unexpected events that can occur in one’s life, paths are precipitously redirected. That is what happened with me,but I took a circuitous route to this place as I also had a lifelong love of the arts and ended up teaching art for many years.

When I began teaching there weren’t any art positions available (due to my city’s fiscal crisis), so I ended up teaching math at one of the toughest junior high schools in my town (coincidentally, it happened to be located in the same neighborhood in Brooklyn,New York where my future husband grew up). Math, what a joke! Math and I were like water and oil. I wondered how I would ever be able to teach a subject that I had struggled with myself during my middle school years. Although it was a real challenge for me, I eventually was able to confidently teach my students algebra, giving them the essentials that they needed to understand and solve problems. I was at the beginning of my teaching career, a novice, but with time and careful planning I gained proficiency and became a successful math teacher. I went from feeling challenged, and feeling like a fish out of water, to becoming a confident teacher, teaching a subject I didn’t choose, but one that chose me.

In life we will face many, many challenges, often unexpected and out of the blue. It may be the loss of a job, a poor grade in a course, a best friend moving away, the sudden death of someone close. These and many more dire challenges are faced by many people around the world everyday. A routine happy life, becomes interrupted by random circumstances that can come in like a lion and disrupt the world as one knows it. It’s hard to make sense of these inexplicable events, but the biggest challenge will be to face the situations head-on. We don’t realize it at the time but our lives, having experienced change, will never be exactly the same. Folks have to step up and face the loss of a friend, a spouse, a job, a dissolution of a marriage, a sudden illness. When we do this, we will find that each circumstance helps to redefine who we are. You are no longer the same person living life.

An oak tree, which starts out as a mere sapling, will eventually grow into a beautiful tall tree. But that tree has to weather the test of time, storms, droughts, wind and whatever else time and  Mother Nature throws at it. In the end the oak tree stands tall having withstood all the tests of time, now a beautiful solid oak tree. It has withstood being battered, now better, stronger and more majestic than from whence it began.

When my husband Chuck was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, I was forced to deal with an unexpected interruption in my life and our life together. I wasn’t sure if I could meet the challenge, but I didn’t have time to think on it long as it was truly a matter of life and death. I had to become whatever I needed to be for the care and well-being of my husband.This was the ultimate test of our union, as in those vows “for better or worse, in sickness and in health”, we were about to face the challenge of those words head-on. Having been hit with this random event changed me at the core. I would never be the same person I was before. It changed the way I saw my life, the world and my perspective on everything. However I was in my little world before dealing with this life altering event, I would never be the same again after all was said and done.

It’s almost impossible to come through major loss without having a changed life view. I found myself more attuned to those who have experienced loss. I was no longer able to tolerate violence on TV or in movies and I became hypersensitive to the  inequities that exist among human beings on this planet.The direction of my life changed as I found  a new purpose selecting the road less traveled. Not everyone is going to be affected by loss in the same way. Sometimes the effects are so deep they can overshadow any lessons to be learned or they can blind one from seeing how life’s tragic occurrences can open the door to new opportunities.

Life and death with my husband Chuck was an experience that gave me my current mission which is to assist others who find themselves on a grief journey. For other people it’ll be something else personal to them and their lives. For many who find themselves stuck in their grief they may miss the opportunity to find a new path for themselves.

I believe that my husband was in my life to help me, so that I could grow in wisdom, strength, patience, endurance and forgiveness. I helped him and he helped me,which is how it should in a marriage.I needed him,and he needed me, and we became eternally connected. One for all, and all for one. As I have been given the gift of having had such a wonderful person in my life, I now have the insight, knowledge and wisdom to give back to others in a meaningful way. This is a responsibility I did not choose, but I believe it is a part of divine order in my life and my destiny, a mission that I gladly accept.

When we experience loss, after a while, we might be given a new direction for our lives. As you begin to reconstruct your life, your life will become redefined. It is even possible to gain a life that is better, richer, and fuller than it was before. I say this often as I write so that people understand that there can be a positive outcome that results from all the grief, pain, chaos and sorrow. I emphasize this because one might feel guilty if the life that they rebuild is one that seems to be better than before. But life is for the living and we build on our experiences, the good and the bad. Since you are the one who is left, know that it’s okay for you to reconstruct your life in a way that is more positive or better than it ever was.

Loss is a part of life, and it can create a chance for individuals to redefine one’s purpose as well as to recognize and accept new opportunities that will seem to appear out of the blue. If one chooses to follow a new course, it will definitely redefine and refine each individual who chooses to look at their loss in a new way. Remember that after loss you’re not meant to die, but to live……anew.




0Brave in a New World: A Guide to Grieving the Loss of a Spouse available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and all other e-booksellers.Also available in New York’s Riverside Church’s gift shop.Go to ,click on the tab and order your copy today

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