Last year, was a tumultuous year for me. In March of 2018, my already-frail mother fell ill and it appeared as if we were going to lose her. Family flew in from all over, we stood vigil by her bedside and we started planning her funeral. But three months later, my mother was still here and my 53-year-old brother, dropped dead in his own home.
The loss of my mother would’ve been difficult, but we had been preparing for that loss since she entered the nursing home, months before. Although my brother was a Type 1 Diabetic, he was healthy for the most part and losing him came out of nowhere.
Then, less than three moths after my brother died, one of my closest childhood friends lost her battle with cancer. As I blundered my way through the funerals and the cleaning and selling of my brother’s home, a clear revelation began coming into focus – I could die too. Anyone could die. Life is promised to no one.
I already had this knowledge cemented in my soul – my dad was killed by a drunk driver when I was nine weeks old. My first memory at three years old, was my grandpa dying right before my eyes. My other grandpa died on my 18th birthday. My best friend Becky, was killed by a drunk driver on her way to my 21st birthday surprise party. My great-grandfather died on my 25th birthday and I lost my best friend and possibly the love of my life, the day after 9/11. But over the last decade, with no real loss happening around me, that knowledge had become dormant and I had settled into a comfortable place, where it felt like more loss was no longer a possibility.
Then my brother died and all the loss throughout my life, became vivid again. Only this time, when I came around, my own mortality was staring back at me. If my brother could drop dead out of nowhere, then so could I. So could anyone.
I could’ve wallowed in my grief and drowned in my sorrow. I could’ve used all the loss in my life, the illness of my mother and the death of my brother and my dear friend, as excuses for giving up, but that’s not who I was raised to be. Instead, I used those things as reasons to, not only forge ahead, but to live large and make something beautiful of my life.
The evening after my brother’s burial, I sat down and began writing a list. Not just a “bucket list” of things I wanted to do before I die, but a list of things I would no longer tolerate in my life and needed to let go – the forgiveness from my ex-husband that I had been waiting over a decade for, the bitterness I harbored in my heart for my step-father, the job I worked tirelessly at for years, for no pay, and a belittling co-worker that had made my life miserable for months.
It wasn’t easy. In fact, letting go of those things, was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done – even more difficult than burying my brother, but I did it. I stopped waiting for the forgiveness from my ex, and forgave myself. I reached out to my step-father, with forgiveness and love, and repaired a relationship that had never been right. I blocked the co-worker and quit the job. It was all very brutal and painful. I cried for days, questioned my judgement and even tried to change my mind, but in the end I powered through it all and came out the other side, like a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis.
“Everything I have ever let go of, has claw marks on it.” ~David Foster Wallace
The pain of letting go didn’t magically disappear, but as I worked through that pain, a beautiful vision began taking shape. A vision of what my life could be like – a new relationship with my step-father, I now lovingly call “Dad”, a friendship with my ex-husband that I never thought possible and the motivation to create my own business with staff members who are proud and happy to work with me.
What I have come to realize is, not all loss is bad. In fact, the shedding of some things is necessary, in order for you to become who you were meant to be. And when you do lose things, whether purposefully or not, it makes room for more amazing things to come into your life.
I lost my brother, but in the outpouring of grief and consolation, I have made many wonderful, new friends. I lost my job, but it is being replaced by a dream of a profitable entrepreneurship. I released the bitterness and hatred I had for my step-dad and gained a Father. And letting go of a relationship I thought I needed, has cleared the path for me to find a lifelong partner, better suited for me.
It has taken hard work and determination to make these necessary changes in my life and I still have moments of uncertainty, where I wonder if letting go of these things is the right thing to do. But then I see the new trajectory of my life and the new doors opening all around me and I know for certain – not everything you lose is a loss.