When my husband passed away, I found myself thrust into a place of not knowing what to expect. All my life I’d been able to set goals and with careful planning I figured out how I could meet those goals. I am a planner, the offspring of two very organized parents. I inherited the Martha Stewart gene way before she was even heard of. I didn’t want to leave my life up to chance, so I perfected my organizational skills. Knowing that everything in my life with regard to my home, work or play was meticulously planned with backup plans in case things went awry, gave me a sense of security. I was the antithesis of Murphy’s Law:…. “Anything that could go wrong, wouldn’t”. I always made sure that there was little chance for failure.
Several years ago, I threw an annual whites fundraising event at the New York Conservatory Gardens. Anyone who knows the beautifully landscaped Conservatory Gardens in Central Park, knows the gorgeous and bucolic setting. Guests would dress in white, bring food to share and spend an afternoon mixing and mingling with friends, old and new. The day’s events included a guided tour of the gardens. Guests made donations that went toward the wonderful work that the Conservancy does including the perpetual upkeep of the gardens. It was always a beautiful event with folks out in full force, dressed to the nines in white. Some years there might be a special feature like a musical guest or children’s entertainment. One summer we had about fifteen chefs from the New York Culinary Institute who whipped up the most delectable summer dishes for beautiful guests in white on a beautiful summer day in August of that year.
But sometimes even the best laid plans can go awry
One year the weather started out beautifully, there were over 100 attendees, and everything was going well. All of a sudden the sky darkened and the 100 or so guests found themselves in the midst of a terrible thunderstorm which seemed to last for hours and hours. Beautiful outfits were drenched in an instant. Some people left, food got ruined, items were lost. A beautiful day turned into chaos by an unexpected weather event. Some guests huddled down in the Parks Department’s maintenance area where the wonderful park custodians let us take shelter from the unexpected storm. The forecasters had not predicted this, and we were all taken by surprise. I went home and changed from my drenched outfit and by the time I was finished the sun had come out shining brighter than it had all day.
I made my way to my parents’ apartment and was greeted by a gentleman offering me a glass of champagne with a lovely strawberry in it. Other guests having made their way there too, washed and dried off, continuing to mix and mingle as if that day’s events had never been marred by an unexpected thunderstorm.
Years later, after my husband had died, I truly fell apart. I felt like I had been dropped and had shattered into tiny little pieces. It was a long while before I’d be able to put myself back together again. As I began to re-create my shattered life I found that the new life being created was different than the one I’d had with my husband Chuck. As I emerged slowly into my newly blossoming present and future, I began to feel hopeful. As time went on I found that the new world I was entering was beginning to show signs of promise. I was developing new friendships, reconnecting with old friends, and beginning to think of my life as a clean canvas awaiting the first brushstroke of color. As my world changed from shades of gray to vibrant color, I was able to see new possibilities for myself as I rebuilt my life. I had been beginning to feel that something was missing from my life, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was. Then I realized that I wasn’t feeling passionate about anything. It wasn’t just the loss of my husband but it was also not having a sense of purpose and enthusiasm for life. All of that had somehow disappeared while I was in the midst of my other life, grief and recovery.
An unexpected opportunity arose for me out of the ashes
As I recovered from grieving, I was beginning to paint a new picture with me at the center surrounded by a variety of possibilities for my new life and my new beginning. Soon I would be inspired by my circumstance to write a book. I had been drawn back to a passion of mine which was writing as well as a desire to assist others. This could never have happened had it not been for the loss of my husband. I soon realized that sometimes one’s life has to be shaken up in order for a new thing to emerge. Just like the beautiful event that was marred by torrential rains, later that same day the sun came out again shining brighter than it had all day. In my case, my life fell apart but soon I was able to create a new life as I allowed a dormant passion to take hold, inspired by the recent events in my life.
It would be a while before I could see and understand the direction my life would take. It would be an even longer while before I understood the gift, yes the gift, that my husband left me with. I now understand that sometimes old things must fall away in order for a new life to emerge. It’s not what I would have wished for but I believe it is a part of my destiny. This is what happened to me and if we all deeply examine the darkest events of our lives, possibly we can begin to see that as we start our new beginning, a new life can be better than the old one. It can be richer, fuller, more adventurous, more passionate, more intimate, more wonderful than ever imagined. By allowing ourselves to fall apart completely, unabashedly, we can emerge better than before.
We must go deep to find that rainbow beyond the rainstorm, but we must first give ourselves permission to move away from grieving and on with living. It is what our loved ones would want for us, not to remain in the muck and mire, but instead to spring forth full of possibility and the hope of being happy again.
To find out more about how you can heal after loss read Brave in a New World:A Guide to Grieving the Loss of a Spouse available on Amazon http://tinyurl.com/jnjs5fu