“Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss in life is what dies inside us while we live” ~Norman Cousins
I am not dead and I am not dying, so you may wonder why I write that death has taught me what I need to know about life.
I lost my mother when I was fifteen. Being a teenager, thoughts of anyone close to me dying had not entered my head. My mother had a brief illness and passed away unexpectedly at age forty-seven.
I remember that my schoolmates came to see me, and I kept thinking that they had their moms. More than being sad that I had lost my mom, I was angry that I had been placed in that position. I missed my mom a lot and just wanted her to come back and be with me.
I started developing a fear that my father would die soon too. When I was in my early thirties, my fears came true when my dad passed away suddenly after a heart attack. He was a skilled physician, a kind man, and more importantly, a wonderful father to me.
As if my dad’s passing away was not enough, my older sister died unexpectedly a year later. I always considered her a strong person, and I could not fathom how she could have died.
To add insult to injury, another sister of mine passed away soon after that.
By then, I had decided that the Universe was conspiring against me. I did not think anyone cared, and I put on an act, pretending to be happy. The truth was that I was buried under the rubble of my fearful thoughts, and constantly worried that something would go wrong.
The next couple of years passed by with various family mishaps till one day, I lost the prestigious job I had.
You may wonder why I classify a job loss in the same category as death, as a job is not irreplaceable. To me, at that point in my life, the job loss had the same feeling of injustice that the death of my parents and siblings so early in my life had for me.
One of my friends suggested that I read books about having positive thoughts. I googled “positive” and started to devour self-help books. I subscribed to Tiny Buddha and spent time meditating.
I reflected on what I read while drinking coffee in the quiet stillness of the early morning hours.
I meditated while on the treadmill, and I realized that the answers to my questions had always been within me. I had just let the unannounced and uninvited negative thoughts I had to overshadow the shackled positive thoughts within me, yearning for a release.
I realized that I was not singled out for anything bad, as I also had a lot of blessings to be thankful for. I had just chosen to not focus on the good in my life. I knew then that I am a survivor. I would like to share my life experiences, which I hope will help you face loss of any kind that devastates you.
1. There is a survivor in each one of us.
If you have survived even one moment after a tragedy, you are a survivor.
Yes, there is a sense of utter hopelessness and despair at first, soon after a loss; but every passing moment shows that you can and you will live this life you have been given.
It proves that you are strong; it proves that you are not a quitter; and above all else, it proves that even if you never forget who or what you have lost, you will not run away from living life.
After all, life is not about living in defeat.
2. There is always something that is going right in a person’s life.
Even in the midst of a tornado of unforeseen circumstances, and all the despair it brings in its wake, there is always something to appreciate in life.
Even though I lost my parents and sisters, I still had wonderful friends in my life.
We need to focus on the good in our life and try to be happy. Being sad and focusing on what we do not have does not change the circumstances.
You can either make a list of what you have or you can make a list of what you do not have. The first list will bring you peace and happiness, while the second list will bring you only sadness.
You may have a lot of things that make you unhappy, but if you have even one thing going well, you have to focus on that. I have found that the more I consider the good in my life, the more things seem to come together for me.
3. Do not take the people you love for granted.
If you are lucky enough to have loved ones in your life, call them often. Visit them often. Share your life with the people who love you.
What can be more important than the people you care about, who care about you?
No one is guaranteed to live a hundred years, and even a hundred years can pass all too fast.
4. Let go of expectations that events in life need to happen in a certain manner that you favor.
Life happens, and it may or may not turn out as you hoped it would. You just have to work with what you have. A lot of times, you may be surprised to find that you end up liking what you get.
Even if you are disappointed that you did not get what you expected, and even if you are upset that you do not have what you want, it is still possible to lead a good life if you can let go of your expectations and find reasons to be happy with what you have.
Life becomes a lot better when you learn to accept it.
5. It is not your fault that bad things beyond your control happen.
Blaming yourself will take you down a long and lonely road with no end in sight. Guilt is a hard taskmaster with no mercy.
Even the most meticulously thought out life will have unforeseen hardships disrupting the plans.
You could not have changed the circumstances surrounding the loss. You could not have prevented it in any way.
Sadly, death happens and life still goes on. When my mother died, it was the day before the Yam Festival, and all my neighbors were enjoying outside in their garden. Life went on. When my father died, life went on. When my sisters died, life carried on.
I used to wonder where God was till I realized that God is the strength and energy that pulled me through all of these circumstances.
6. Be open to miracles.
As long as you are living, something wonderful could happen at any moment. Life may have lows that you never expected and that you did not foresee, but it also will have highs that you never dreamed of that will bring you joy beyond your wildest imagination.
The Universe does not owe you anything, so be grateful for any blessings that you have. Do not let anything slip away.
No matter what happens, try to enjoy the life you have. No one else can enjoy it for you.