I wish you met my grandmother, truly I do. As the anniversary of her passing came upon my family, I choose to get through the day with one of her many wise statements,” With sadness there is gladness, it is all how you choose to see it.”
You see, she was one of those people that loved connecting. She never met a stranger. She always had a story to share of someone she met. Here’s an example.
One a flight maybe thirty years ago she was sitting across a young woman and her infant. After about an hour of the young mother trying and trying to soothe her baby and appearing increasingly distressed my grandmother leaned over the arm rest and said to the woman, “May I try to help?” The woman looked scared, cuddled the baby tighter. My grandmother shared, “I have 3 children, 9 grandchildren and I love people. Please let me try. I cannot go anywhere with her and I’m wondering if you had a small break if it would help.” The woman initially looked shocked but then after a few moments (and tears running down hers and the baby’s face) she gave her baby daughter to my grandmother. A few minutes later the baby settled into her arms and was calm. My grandmother was overjoyed, and the new mother was finally exhaling. Some time passed and my grandmother encouraged the woman to take a walk to the back of the plane and request a soft drink. They were fine. Although hesitant, the woman went, and she returned still exhaling and was ready for her daughter. The remainder of the flight was peaceful for all.
I am all about opening gifts. However, gifts that require instructions and a learning curve I am not a fan of. The concept of with sadness comes gladness was a learning curve for me. I think this was true for several reasons.
First, the sadness is just that. It is sad. When sadness hits, we really benefit from not bull dozing our way through it. Instead, we need to feel it.
You Can’t Rush Grief
I have said this next sentence many times and I can guarantee I will say it many more. There is no fast pass like we find at Disney when moving through grief and other hard life obstacles. We want there to be one though. Badly. I hear you and understand. When grieving a loss, whether it is the death of a loved one, a divorce, or an unexpected move, the stages of emotions we feel are hard. The time to get through them feels forever and at times so fast. We do get through them though. It may feel at times as if you’re getting knocked down. Brush yourself off. Get up. Even if it’s slowly.
It can also be hard if we get stuck in one mindset thinking. When we think of something in a certain way, the idea of challenging our thoughts may feel next to impossible. We can get stuck here. This stuck space can become uncomfortably comfortable. It is predictable, right? You know when you emotionally look at that sad space you can pretty much you will feel bad.
If you have been feeling this way for some time you know how it feels. I get it. It’s not a good feel. But you know how it feels. Another reason I find it can be hard to move from the sadness is it simply feels wrong to do so. I’ll go one step further to say it may feel disloyal to do so. There is no fast pass and there is no rule book. Everyone’s process is supposed to and will look different. The key here is to honor yourself as you honor your loss.
Explore The Possible Gifts From Your Sadnesses
Sounds easier than doing so? Many times, it is. Here’s the gift of the sadness. I am encouraging you to take a pause in reading and jot down a few of those sadness life spaces. If you have more than one, jot them on the left side of a blank sheet of paper. Maybe you did not get into your first choice of college. Perhaps you learned after living in a community you have enjoyed and have built up since you had your children will no longer be as you unexpectedly must move. That job promotion you have been hoping and working towards was given to a coworker. You may have been laid off from your job after twenty years due to corporate restructuring. All of these are hard and sad in their own way.
The gifts may not have been so obvious initially. Look at your list again. Make a line going down the center of the page. Our hope is to explore possible gifts and write them across from the life sadness space.
I’ll let an experience with my grandmother from about two years ago be an example. She was visiting and unexpectedly was admitted to the hospital for several days. Every day I visited she expressed with sadness comes gladness it is all how you choose to look at it. Yup, she was all about self-empowerment. It is how you choose to look at it. She could have easily and understandably been frustrated, overwhelmed, etc. with being in a hospital and one not close to home. Instead, she met me with a smile as I entered her room and expressed the good part of her situation was that we got to see each other for several days instead of the initial planned afternoon visit.
At that life stage of mine I do not think I could have had that gift re-frame. A life lesson she gave, and I hold close. The sadness of losing her was tremendous to my family. The gladness is the gratitude we have that we had her for so many years and the lessons she passed on to us.
The other side of your sheet may be empty for right now. Or maybe you have filled in one or two gladness spaces. Did you go to your second-choice college and then land a killer internship and meet your fiancé there? Did getting laid off from your job provide the push you needed to go back to school to finish your degree in a career area you have been longing to enter? That unexpected move you initially feared and resentful for turn out to be an amazing opportunity for your entire family?
Finding gladness initially is hard. It may feel like an impossibility in the beginning. What if that could change? Even more, what if you could help make that change? How would your life feel different? Remember, this is the uncomfortable part. You may have become an expert at feeling uncomfortably comfortable. Shifting from that space may provide improved sleep and motivation. A brightness to your mood. A new sense of openness to explore.
How To Change Your Way Of Viewing Things
Let’s reread one sentence from above. What if you could help make that change? You? Yes, YOU. If you have worked with me or have heard from others you know I am going to say what I am thinking and then we can dive into it if needed. So, with that said, lets go a step deeper, heck, let go a huge heap bigger and say, YOU absolutely can change your way of viewing things. Here’s the gift, you are the author of your own way of seeing things (get ready for a near future blog all about this topic!). Here’s an obstacle you may need to push through. However, believing, truly believing you are the author of how you may view things and can change it. Will it be easy? For some, no. Will it shift you at your core and your internal feelings when you do it, heck yeah! I appreciate looking at life as erasable pen. Never permanent ink. Like many of you, I learned almost thirty years ago a permanent ink view of life can lead to many hard emotions.
My junior year of college I was working mega hours to pay for the Kaplan class for the LSAT. You see, since age 14 I was determined to be a family attorney. I left the Florida-Georgia game weekend to get back to start filling out applications. My life was in permanent ink. No deviation or exploring even thought of. Instead, it was all written out on a straight line with benchmark to complete and check off. Law school was next. The end of that year I made an appointment with one of the deans at the law school. I’ll never forget sitting in the office in front of a dark, wood desk. I felt so almost adult-like. I shared my excitement and long passion to be a future attorney. She listened so intently I thought……until she said to me, “You do not want to be an attorney.” Excuse me. I politely shared perhaps I did not explain myself fully. Nope, she heard me. What she shared is that you do not want to help people in a courtroom.
She recognized I had passion about helping families, systems, individuals process and work through conflict. I left that office confused and lost but after some time and self-exploration it turned to gratitude and is marked as one of the most powerful discussions in my life. Life can change. Incredibly fast at times. Breathe in the change, look intently for the gifts, embrace the unexpected.