Good Grief: How to cope, survive, and even thrive after loss…eventually

Charlie Brown, the famous Peanuts character, was oft exclaiming, “Good grief.” In those moments he, of course, was not really speaking about grief. It was just a colloquial phrase often expressed in moments of upset or disappointment.

I have counseled and coached others for years about the stages of grief after loss, and the various strategies for coping and moving on. And now I have the heart wrenching experience myself with the loss of my wife and best friend suddenly and unexpectedly.

We had just relocated from Florida back to Colorado where I have spent over half my life to be closer (geographically and emotionally) to our family located there (a son, a daughter, their spouses and 4 grandchildren). The move also brought me closer to my daughter in Oregon now only a 2-hour plane ride and more opportunities for visits.

However, we arrived on January 5, and awaited our furniture arrival on January 11; excited about our new house with room inside and outside for grandkids to play, and for family to enjoy. However, my wife took ill on January 10, was treated; and then had to be transported by ambulance on January 25th. She died three days later of liver failure and other complications from cancer and hepatitis C.

Her medical reports in early January were all good, but the liver can go from hero to zero…something caused the downturn. Thinking all was well, she excitedly discussed plans for the house, family visits and vacations that could be planned.

Alas she died 3 weeks after we arrived in Colorado with all the plans unrealized. Needless to say, there is a hole in my heart…I miss my wife terribly. And yet, thank goodness, we made It to Colorado where my family and friends give me unconditional support and love. It greatly helps in my process of grief.

So, Charley Brown’s expression, “good grief” has new meaning for me. Of course, I am experiencing tremendous grief at the loss of my beloved — but is it ‘good”? Well, my belief is yes, it is good and necessary to grieve, even though it is not what I would choose to deal with. Life had other plans.

I have written and taught for years, that all experiences are good experiences…eventually. They have to be. We have to learn over time what the human experience of loss means to us and how it etches a bit the development of our soul and being in the world. Bronnie Ware wrote The Top Five Regrets of the Dying – A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing; a blog that became a book with worldwide impact.

Those lessons that I have taught now are paramount to me. My wife Jill would not want me to wallow in my grief, but to remember the life we had and the life I still have. Of course I wish she had lived longer, but none of us know the day or manner in which our time on earth comes to an end. Her legacy is bigger than she knew…and now it lives on in me with an added purpose for her life to impact how I live my life, for as long as I am here.

Good grief!

INQUIRY: What losses have you experienced and how have they held you back or propelled you forward? How did you cope? What was most helpful in this most human experience?

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