As of this writing, I wanted to start by stating that for any of you struggling and hoping to stay away from politics and the outcome of the US elections, this is a safe space.
I only reference it to acknowledge that a lot of people, including my own children, have experienced extreme amounts of anxiety and fears about the outcome. All I want to say is that the election is over. The outcome may still be uncertain; but all the votes will be tallied, a winner will be declared, and life will continue.
Which leads me to the topic of this week’s post… after listening to a series of podcasts and doing my own program work (I have created a coaching program designed to help widow/ers find meaning and purpose in life after losing their person), I have been pondering two big questions and I want to share my thoughts and observations.
The two questions I have been pondering are as follows:
What experience of life do I want?
This is an interesting question to ponder as a widower just over two years out. When Suzanne died, there was a time I wasn’t even sure I wanted to continue living, let alone think about the kind of life I wanted. Now, I am asking myself what kind of experience I want out of life moving forward.
For many of us, the idea of moving forward—of creating a new life—seems somewhat alien, I know. I think most of us feel this life has been thrust upon us, and we have no choice but to carry on. But I disagree. I think it is a mistake to think this way. I know that after maybe three or four months into my widowhood, I wanted to completely change my life and how I had previously lived.
So now, I feel as though the sun has set on my old life; and I begin anew.
I’m not trying to judge others about your own preferences and how you feel, but I think the idea of simply “carrying on” (in the same life as I previously led) is a mistake. Initially, yes, I think I felt that all I wanted was some degree of consistency and “normalcy” in my life. But the more I consciously examined what I wanted out of life—what it might look like and how I could honor Suzanne’s life and the legacy she left behind—the more I felt just “carrying on” was a disservice to her memory.
In fact, I realized that carrying on was the last thing I want to do. It implies I’m remaining static—in the same life I lived with her—only without her.
I wanted my life to have meaning. It was my objective to make an impact on others—so that they may be inspired to stop sleepwalking through life and start truly living… My focus transfixed on the concept that we have infinite potential within us. And I have come to believe that we can harness the grief, the anger, the guilt, and all the other feelings we have after losing our person and turn it into a loving and positive energy to create real, positive change in ourselves.
After all, Gandhi once said, “be the change you wish to see in the world.” If we use the time of healing do that, like I have done (and I believe we all have that capability), then we—as widows and widowers—can truly change the world.
The second question I have been asking and ask you is:
What story will create that for me?
I have started to create a new story of my life. In an earlier post, I mentioned how another widow and I talked about the whole “chapter two” thing. In that post, I mentioned how calling a new person a new chapter was a dissatisfactory way to describe the life I had with Suzanne. She was her own complete book, not a chapter in my life.
So that is part of my story. The thing is, I am starting not a new chapter in my life, but a whole new book. It is a story that is heavily influenced by “volume 1” of Jeff’s life; but it is nonetheless a new work altogether.
Now, as I begin to write the next great work of my life, I ask myself what is the story going to be about? I answer this: Service. I will live this life in service to other widows and widowers because I can. It’s simple really.
Over the last two years, I have made major—and I mean huge—changes to my life. First, I discovered some secrets. It started by finding meaning and purpose in my life—and rediscovering happiness. After that, it was simply a matter of taking a leap and expecting the net to appear.
In the last year, I left the security of a paycheck and benefits and abandoned the corporate environment (scary, but what is “job security” anyway?). Then, I started my own coaching business.
Now, in the last few months, I decided to focus my story on creating a program designed to help others like me discover their own meaning and purpose after the loss of their person.
My story is simple. There are millions of widows and widowers out there who—like me—probably thought losing their person was the end of the world as they knew it. And it truly was the end of that world. But, so many that I have met over this time do not “feel fine” (to quote REM). I do. It was the end of my world as I knew it, and now, I feel fine… because I have a meaning and a purpose that is so intertwined with the loss and how I am managing my grief.
Yes, I still have a huge amount of love in my heart for Suzanne. And she is still heavily referenced in this “Volume 2” of Jeff’s life; but, she is no longer a central character.
So, for those of you out there wondering what my new story will look like, it’s this:
My story is that from here on out, I am of service to the millions of widows and widowers worldwide who want help finding meaning, purpose, fulfillment and happiness again. After doing all this hard work myself, I can truly act as a guide for them to shine a light on the meaning and purpose that still exists inside each of us—even without our person.
The qualities we “seek” externally are truly the immutable, infinite possibilities we all have within each of us—on the inside. My goal is to help widows and widowers find that internal GPS—that compass that guides them to their own purpose—knowing that it will be a painful journey that takes significant strength and effort. My goal is to act as guide because I know that many of us sense we no longer have a purpose or meaning in life, but we do.
If this is my story, then what is yours?