In the wake of Suzanne dying, I struggled to find true peace. How did others do it, I wondered? Some turn to “god”, religion, etc. Others turn to self-medicating (drugs, alcohol, etc.). Some find it in more unconventional ways.
I finally fell into the last category. When Suzanne died, my whole world shattered. The girls suffered. Her parents suffered. I suffered. How would I ever find any peace, tranquility or serenity in my life again?
Life is strange when someone you truly love dies. I can only talk about my own experience, but it definitely seemed difficult to find anything like “peace” or “serenity” after Suzi died. The chaos of the world seemed so much more acute. I was unable to watch the news, listen to music, read. Even doing simple tasks was like trudging uphill through molasses… Nothing could or would pacify me and nothing would help me achieve anything like a peaceful existence.
The girls were struggling in their own way, too. They were searching for answers. They were searching for reasons. They were searching for peace in their own hearts and minds. They were questioning everything, too. We all were. To some extent, I am sure they still are…
The life of the bereaved is a struggle. No matter what you say or do, there is always a twinge of sadness. We say things to each other and to ourselves. We say things like… “She is missing this…” or “She will never see me do this…” or just begin a sentence: “She will never…”
So many things we think about over and over. So many life events. So many achievements. So many trips. So many meaningful and meaningless things she will never experience again and we will never experience with her. And then there are the statements, “I wish she was here to…”
But I have mostly stopped using those. Only for my own peace of mind. It was a struggle. Once in a while, I catch myself starting a sentence with one of those statements. It’s a lot less often now.
So, when did this all start to ebb? When did those thoughts start to be less hurtful?
In all honesty, they haven’t entirely. It is just that I sought solace in the fact that life is truly temporary. Everything is temporary.
Even my writing and this blog are temporary. Despite what I want to believe, I don’t really know what will happen after I die. Will the reality that I currently witness and “experience” in this meat avatar cease to exist? Is it all a construct of my mind/soul/ego? Will the world—and the seven billion people on it—exist in the realm of what I call “reality” after I die? I don’t know the answer to any of these questions, and since Suzanne died, I have asked them over and over (along with so many others). What I do know is that because I started to ask these questions, I have made some different choices that I would have made if Suzanne had not died. Some of those choices were good, some not so good.
One of the choices I made was to seek serenity. To believe in the fact that life has a way of existing and I can be an active participant without stressing or worrying about what will happen. It was truly difficult at first, but the more I have come to embrace it, the easier it seems to have become to accept.
This doesn’t mean I am passively letting life happen to me. To the contrary. I am doing the opposite. I am embracing what this life has to offer. I am travelling more and seeing places I have never been. I am taking risks. I am doing things that are “outside my comfort zone.” Things I have chosen that mean something include signing up to become a certified life, career, performance and corporate coach. I recently purchased an online executive management credential course (an online MBA), because I want to be a better businessman—working smarter not harder. And I have made many new friends and visited them in places I have never been.
One new friend encouraged me to write more for myself—not just for the blog, or for a book, or for anything special. So, I did.
And I started writing about my memories with Suzanne. The times we spent when no one else was with us. The inside jokes. The comments. The origins of the love language we spoke together… like others who call each other “babe”, say “I love you muchly”, “olive juice”, “ditto”, etc. These were our things we shared (and no, I know we aren’t unique, but the reasons, the timing and the way these things evolved for us were).
Then there is also the idea of being comfortable alone as I write: In solitude, with my own thoughts, my memories, my words and my world.
This has become peaceful. Now, I find it enjoyable to be alone. I find solitude a better replacement for the loneliness I felt for so long after she died. With the acceptance of the serenity of being alone and with my own thoughts and words, came an embracing of the fact that I am okay: That we are all okay if we can embrace our own company and enjoy it (and believe me, because I find myself incredibly boring, it has taken a long time to reach this state!). We can all do it, I think. It’s not Zen, Nirvana or enlightenment. It’s serenity. A peaceful existence knowing that I know nothing, other than what I experience and accept. And I have achieved and embraced this “nothingness” nonetheless.
So, I am content. I feel serene in the aloneness and contentment being able to feel safe in my own company and in my own space. I am afforded this luxury because I have truly stopped and asked myself, “what’s the worst that can happen?” Want to know a secret? The worst thing that can happen is that I can die. Yep. I could. Since Suzanne already showed me that way, I can accept that now.
So why worry? Why not take the chance? Why not make that phone call? Read that book? Join that class? Take that first step? Do something outside your comfort zone? Find peace in daily life? Find serenity?
No, I am not claiming to be serene all the time. Nor am I going to stop doing what I can to live my life in a way that enables me to stay alive… The idea that something could actually kill me scares me because I know that I have three daughters who need their dad. But I also have come to accept that I have little control over anything, so why waste time and energy trying to control things that I know are out of my power?
Now, I place my faith in universal timing and the unfolding of the universe’s plans in what may come. If things are meant to be, then they will. That may be what some call “placing my faith in God”, but to me it’s far simpler. I place my faith in my self and my ability simply to be at ease with whatever comes next. It is that sense of serenity I have achieved in the wake of Suzanne’s death and the knowing that life is continuing for me and my girls. It is something I can never change, so I embrace it and go with it.
Hopefully, you can too.