LOSS, A RECURRING THEME & A LESSON ON FINDING THE GIFTS
How is it possible to remain positive, even upbeat, after loss? I mean the final loss, the loss of a loved one, someone you cared for, worked with, held in your arms, sang and cried with, cuddled or tasted soup with. Is it normal to even consider that there is any positivity at all to this most final of life events? For most, to consider that grief can yield positivity, seems insulting and ridiculous. I think differently. This doesn’t mean I don’t struggle with grief, but I do know there are gifts to be found in the wake of loss.
This week I was reminded of the alchemy of grief yet again. My dear friend and ally in health and wellness, Chris Hyndman of the noted Steven and Chris television duo, passed away suddenly. I was lucky enough to have appeared as a guest and a regular on the show, enjoying the naughty banter and often raucous behaviour of both men. Chris was quick to smile and poke self-deprecating fun about his quirks. On a recent show, I was demonstrating how to make bone broth. Chris leaned in over the pot, tasted the broth, and not realizing soup is very hot, spat the mouthful of burning soup out and laughed at himself, encouraging the audience to join in. The last time I appeared on the show, I was demonstrating the joy of rebounding and used a ball as one of my workout props. Naturally Chris couldn’t resist a pun about balls, suggesting that his were bigger than Steven’s. Again, the audience enjoyed the fun.
But the best thing about Chris was the way he made you feel. When in his presence, he treated you like a Queen. Complimentary, appreciative, admiring and genuine, his warmth was like a delicious basking sun, lighting up your energy. He paid attention to you like there was no one else in the room.
And I’m broken about losing him. Just broken. What I feel is vulnerable. That life is so tenuous and sad. I went all the way down that emotional road I had already travelled three times before, losing my dad, then my step son and finally Bob. The depth of how I have felt this week has surprised me. I couldn’t put a decent workout together. I felt exhausted physically and emotionally. Somehow my light was shining less brightly. When I think about why, it’s because losing Chris at age 49 was too young and too soon. It’s because of losing Bob before I could have those critical conversations that I now will never have, was too soon. It’s because losing a boy, a stepson, a 24 year old was too soon. No parent should have to bury a child. Now another family, Chris’ family is having to do this. There is nothing right about it and my heart aches. I haven’t been myself all week.
And then I remembered. I had already survived loss. The book I was reading reminded me of this truth. In his book, The Pilgrimage, author Paulo Coelho says it beautifully,
“Death is our constant companion, and it is death that gives each person's life its true meaning.”
When we allow ourselves to sift back through the memories of that beautiful person who graced our lives, we honour them. We lift out the moments that sparkle and shine and feel our hearts awaken. This is honouring the memory of our loved one. Doing it is a need as great as quenching your thirst.
Giving honour to whom we have lost doesn't start by sequestering yourself in your grief. This is never a healing solution. Isolation only makes the experience worse. I was lucky. I had my family around me every time I experienced loss. When I faltered, they were there to catch me. When I needed to talk, they had patience and ears. When I couldn’t find the answers within my family, I sought support from a grief counsellor. At times there were as many as two dozen people in the house after Bob’s passing. At others it was just me. But I was supported and carried throughout.
When I faced the lonely emptiness of the house Bob and I built together, I picked up my pen and I wrote. And wrote. And wrote. That book is entitled The Road to Resilience: One Successful, Challenging, Positive Step at A Time. Word upon word, page upon page I told my story. It is a story of Bob and I, of love and loss, ruin and disaster, illness and death. It is also a story of hope. In the pages of that story, I was able to remind myself, in the telling, of Bob’s beauty as a person. The writing released an avalanche of stories, memories, plans and dreams. We were good together. I was the jelly to Bob’s peanut butter sandwich, as one fan put it. As I wrote, I helped myself realize the steps I had taken to grieve and give thanks for the wonder of knowing Bob.
We can’t pretend that losing someone is a joyful experience. It never will be. But we can give meaning to it, infusing loss with hope rather than with negativity. If we linger in the darker side of grief, it’s as if we negate the person we lost. We make it about us, not them.
The challenge is to find the gifts in loss. Remaining in mourning is no strategy for the living. That is loss twice over. To that end, be sure to care for yourself with redoubled energy. Now is not the time to give up your self care habits. Continue training, Eating Clean, journaling and finding ways to express emotional and spiritual components in your life.
Grieve in company.
Find the gift in the loss.
Honour your loved one. Celebrate the joy of that person.
Express your emotions every way you can.
Practice self care.
Allow grief to happen on its’ own timeline.
As I write this now, I realize how blessed I was to have known Chris Hyndman. In hindsight, I would love to have known him more deeply but I feel I got the best parts of him in his joyous zeal for living and loving. I take away the gifts of being present in the moment and an immense joy for life. Chris made me want to reach out to each of you in a more powerful way - through authenticity.
I was blessed to have had my father, a man who also loved life and took risks, like immigrating to Canada or fighting in the war at age 17. My dad had bravery figured out an early age and stood by his decisions with a tough moral compass. I take away the gifts of courage and adventure.
In Braden I found the gift of compassion. Watching him live his life with the profound limitations he had to endure after the accident, made me realize I had nothing to complain about and everything to live for. I ran, swam and biked harder because he couldn’t. I learned humility through Braden.
In Robert I found the gift of true love. I hadn’t known it before and if it is as rare as I think it is, then I have experienced one of the great wonders of this life. His charismatic energy and charm are gifts I take with me, as he taught me to embrace all of you as if you were my sisters and my brothers. Robert was the sun to my dormancy. He woke me up and helped me bloom.
I think of loss and death as alchemists. These experiences have the power to transmute an unremarkable substance into something beautiful and valuable. The ingredients of loss come together to make each of us appreciate this stunning life more deeply. In another beautiful quote from Paulo Coelho, he states,
“We always have a tendency to see those things that do not exist and to be blind to the great lessons that are right there before our eyes.”
Look for it in loss.
Remember, I am always listening.
If you would share with me the way in which you have handled your own loss, I would treasure your words immensely. We can learn from one another, how to bear one of life’s most challenging events. Please tell me your story.