When we lose someone in our lives, we are quick to think about all the things we still wanted to do with that person and all of the things that will no longer be possible. In times of grieving we are hardwired to think of all the losses involved. This is especially true in situations where a loss is sudden and unexpected. Add shock to the grieving process and there is a whole dimension of questioning (why did this happen) and judgement (it’s not fair). What we fail to realize in these moments, is just how much we have already gained from these lost relationships, the experiences we’ve had with our loved ones which have shaped us, and our responsibility to carry their legacy.
There are clearly defined stages of grieving and I’m not in position to challenge those or the benefits of allowing ourselves the time to grieve and effectively deal with our losses. I will however, present the challenge to grieve for your loss and simultaneously celebrate your gains.
“Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some stay for a while, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never, ever the same” Flavia Weedn
Take some time and realize the footprints that have been left on your heart. Inventory the experiences you have had that have changed you and left a little of this person with you. Realize the gifts that you have been given by having love in your life. Nobody can take those from you.
Grab a pen, paper – a notebook if that works for you. Your brain releases emotion and thought through the distinct grip of a pen in your hand and the movement of a pen on paper. Gift yourself with an opportunity to balance your emotions and create a list of the positive impressions left on your life by sharing moments and experiences while you had the chance.
Some key exploration points:
- How did you meet? I bet it’s a great story with a lot of significance, and one that only you can truly understand in it’s entirety.
- What is one of the earliest positive memories you have of this person? Why does this makes you smile?
- What are the top five experiences/adventures you had with this person? Write out what you learned about yourself in each of these situations. How did this change you and help you grow?
- Three positive things this person said to you that stick (compliments/advice/an honest truth: “your butt does not look good in those pants!!”). How did you feel in each of these moments? How did this improve your relationship and your personal outlook?
- What values did your loved one hold dear? Explore how these strong values impacted you.
- Where would you be now if this person had not come into your heart and left some messy footprints? That’s a long path to explore. Look for the key detours you made because of the impact this person has had on who you are, your values, goals and choices. A word-web brainstorm is good here.
- List 5 key things that you know you contributed to the joy and growth of your loved one.
“Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” Alfred Lord Tennyson. This is hard to hear, but when you have a great inventory of the gifts you have been given and the life that you have built because you’ve loved, it is much better to have loved.
Try to steer away from the should-haves and would-haves. A tough realization is that tomorrow would have played out with the same habits and rituals as yesterday. The should-have and would-haves are just bringing you down. The things you should-have done… YOU DID. The proof is in the pain of the loss and the joy you both had yesterday. Find time to realize the impact that was shared, the lives that were bettered and the legacy you can carry forward for the ones who can’t carry their own.
Challenge: Repeat the explorations above, pen and paper, for each of the 5 people who are closest to you and still in your life. Share this with them so they know their impact. It will move you forward and you’ll never have to experience that ‘should-have’ guilt in the future with those closest to you.
In spirit of working on appreciating your own impact and accomplishments you may also like What’s In Your Bucket
Note: In November 2011 I lost 2 family members in shocking & unexpected events within 2 weeks of each other. There were so many things I learned about each of them only after they left us. This made me feel like there were so many things I wanted to do with them and they weren’t around to do those things anymore. The truth is, I probably never would have known those things about them in their lifetime and so the point is mute. What I do know, is this information, the memories I created with them and the experience of loss shaped me to be a better person. Because of these two, I have learned to have more patience and acceptance, to relax a little bit and truly enjoy more moments, and to pursue the things worth pursuing with 100% focus and effort. Thank-you John and Iris for your bright smiles, inspiration to enjoy life and determination in your quests for happiness.