“If we could see that everything, even tragedy, is a gift in disguise, we would then find the best way to nourish the soul.” ~Elizabeth Kubler Ross
Sometimes a tragedy can give new energy to life and bring awareness we have been living on autopilot.
I still remember the night like it was yesterday. It was late and my husband and I had just turned off the light when my phone rang. It was my aunt saying my dad pushed his life alert and was transported to the hospital.
I fumbled to find my clothes and hurried to the car. The drive to the hospital was a blur. I found my dad in the emergency room smiling. He proudly told me the “people” wouldn’t leave his house, so he pushed the button on his necklace for help.
My dad suffered from Lewy Bodies Dementia. It is a fast acting dementia that includes hallucinations, sleeping disorders, and mental decline.
When my dad pushed his life alert button on my advice, it was the precursor to his tragic death. I felt like it was my fault.
I told him to push his button whenever he needed help and we weren’t around. On this night, the hallucinations were bad enough for him to push the button just like I asked him to do.
Once transported to the hospital, he was admitted for observation and regulation of his medicine. The wrong medication was prescribed and my father never recovered. He eventually slipped into a coma and passed away.
When tragic events happen, they are not our fault. It is human nature to blame ourselves when in reality there is nothing we could have done differently to change the outcome.
Still, at the time my mind was tormented. If I had only been there, if I had taken him to the doctor sooner, if I had known they were going to change his medicine. The what if’s were the hardest part.
Stages of grief will come and go. Allow yourself to embrace the stages as you move through them. They are part of the healing process that eventually brings a sense of happiness.
After my Dad’s death I went through the many stages of grief. Not in any order. I bounced from stage to stage and back again.
The death of a loved one is a personal journey. No two people go through it the same way.
Some people internalize emotions and try to work through them alone. Others go through the stages of grief for all to see. Some ignore the emotions and never find closure. Ignoring pain deprives your soul of the nourishment a loss can bring.
Regardless of how you navigate the stages of grief, it is the right way.
For me, it was a combination. I worked through most of it privately, but sometimes I needed to talk. I reflected a lot. I remembered happy times and times I wished I could take back.
I went through his belongings reflectively and learned much about him. He kept beanies, pictures of classmates, and perfect attendance pins from grade school. I found them, along with every card I had ever given him. Birthday cards, Christmas cards, just because cards. All placed together in a drawer like they were great treasures.
I felt overwhelmingly loved. It was at that time I was hit with an epiphany.
It would make him sad to know that I blamed myself. He wanted me to be happy.
When a tragic event happens, it is not our fault. The best thing we can do is honor the person we lost by living our lives to the fullest. After all, wouldn’t that be our wish for them?
A peace came over me. It was clear. I understood that I was supposed to honor him by living my life to the fullest, appreciating every waking moment and all of the people around me that make my life special.
Life is a gift. We never know when or how it will end. To honor ourselves, and those that love us, it is important to be true to ourselves and do the things that bring us happiness.
I started doing the things that I had always wanted to do. I finished college, began writing, signed up for Jon Morrow’s course on guest blogging to help polish my skills, traveled more, and tried new things.
I also learned that stopping to appreciate the small things around me. I saw them before but on autopilot. I never really stopped to appreciate their beauty.
Through this tragedy I have found the keys to happiness: love yourself, appreciate the little things, forgive yourself for things that have already happened, and show love all those around as if it were your last day.
Although this was a time of great sadness, it was also an unexpected time of personal growth, which resulted in a more meaningful life.
As a result of this tragedy, I learned how to appreciate life and the people who love me, but most of all, I learned how to love myself and grant myself forgiveness.
I think my Dad would be proud of me. I see him every time I look in the mirror. When I smile, it is him smiling back at me.
Man enjoying the moment image via Shutterstock