In 2016, I was struggling with intense back pain, which got so bad I had to crawl on my hands and knees to move from my bed to anywhere.
I was in excruciating pain that was caused by a bulging disc. In July of that year, I had surgery, but after surgery I still struggled with walking and I was still in tremendous pain.
Almost a year after surgery, I started seeing a chiropractor who was highly regarded in my area, and we began decompression therapy. This helped a lot for a while, and I was improving greatly.
And then tragedy struck.
My sister and her family, while on their way home from vacation, were rear-ended by a transport truck. My sister and her oldest son did not survive. I was devastated.
As the days went by, my body seemed to be getting stronger, and I was grateful for this, as it meant I could be with my family and help my brother-in-law during this time.
A year later, while at a grief seminar, my back started hurting again, and it continued to get worse over the next several months. I had no idea why, what caused it, or why therapy no longer seemed to be working. I was in so much pain once again that I ended up mostly bedridden for over a year. I’m currently still resting and healing as I write this.
During this time, I lost nearly everything.
I lost my sister and my nephew. I lost the health coaching business I had worked so hard to build, and with that, the loss of my clients.
Because few people understood what I was going through, and I couldn’t explain it to them, I lost most of the relationships in my life.
Grief has become a huge part of my life.
During this time, I have had a lot of healing to do. Not just physically, but emotionally, mentally, and spiritually as well.
As a health coach and self-improvement junkie, I know the importance of looking inward and healing ourselves. I also know how friggin’ difficult it is.
What I didn’t expect was to find buried treasure within my grief. I know life is about learning, and there are always lessons to be learned from even our most difficult circumstances. But this was grief.
This is what I discovered. Life is too precious to waste.
I started asking myself these questions:
If today is my last day, do I want to give my energy away to worry and fear?
If today is my last day, do I want to give my energy away to other people’s drama?
If today is my last day, do I want to give my energy away to arguing and fighting?
If today is my last day, do I want to give my energy away to worrying about things I can’t control?
Those are a few of the revelations I have found in my grief. However, some of these other gifts took my by surprise:
1. Trust in the process.
The waiting is often the hardest part. I’m no longer the person I was. She’s gone. She doesn’t exist anymore. She’s not coming back. And yet, I’m not the woman I’m becoming either. I’m in between.
I have a choice to make. I can allow my fears, worries, and pain to consume me, or I can surrender to the Divine and live in the moment. It certainly isn’t easy, but I know the only way out of this mess is to trust that I’m exactly where I need to be, and that I’m heading exactly where I need to go.
2. Healthy boundaries.
Having boundaries is essential to living a peaceful life. It is said that we teach people how to treat us.
Without strong, healthy boundaries, we lose sight of what belongs to us and what belongs to another. We become enmeshed with others, and this is not healthy.
Setting boundaries is scary, because usually the people you’re setting boundaries with will become upset. They wonder, “Why is she doing this? Why is she acting this way?”
When I start setting boundaries with someone, it’s not because I don’t love them, but I have started loving myself too. Boundaries are never about hurting anyone; they are about giving yourself the love and compassion you deserve. They’re an attempt to continue our relationships, not end them.
Finally, I’ve started giving myself the love and affection I deserve. I’ve spent so long thinking the most unloving thoughts about myself. I’ve come to realize that I deserve love, and the most qualified person to give me the love I need, the love I deserve, is me.
Society teaches us that loving ourselves is wrong. We’re told we’re selfish, self-absorbed, and more. This must change if we are to live peaceful, happy lives. We have a right to be able to look at ourselves and say, “Hey, I know you, and I think you’re beautiful,” or anything else you want to lovingly say to yourself.
“Love is the greatest healing power I know. Love can heal even the deepest and most painful memories because love brings the light of understanding to the darkest corners of our hearts and minds.” ~ Louise Hay
4. Soul connection.
We are so caught up in our human experiences and dramas that we have no idea who we truly are or what we’re doing here. I have been meditating for years, but my practice has been sporadic at best. Since I wasn’t going anywhere, I dove deep into this practice. I knew it was necessary to heal, and as I did so, I developed a stronger soul connection.
Living from the soul is so different than living from the ego. The ego is fear, and it says, “You’d better hurry up and get better, Jennifer. The world doesn’t want to wait for you. Time’s ticking and you’re running out. The longer you take, the more you’ll lose.”
The soul is love, and it says, “You’re exactly where you need to be. Rest. Take care of yourself. Give yourself the love you deserve. You have all the time you need.”
5. Stronger faith.
I was raised Catholic. I switched to Lutheran when I married my husband. However, neither one truly resonated with me. They just didn’t fit, so I left the church for a long time. I searched for many years for meaning and for something to connect to. I found a little white church, Unitarian Universalist, about a half hour from me that I love but have been unable to get to.
As I lay in my bed, feeling sad, lonely, and depressed, I looked at the tribal frog artwork that hangs on my bedroom wall, a gift from my husband. During my darkest times, I would lay staring at him, and he said, “Leap to faith, Jennifer. You must leap to faith.”
And so I took his advice, and I began to pray for the first time in a long time. Every day I pray and give thanks for this loving, peaceful, miraculous force in my life who knows so much more than I do. This energy that connects all of us and reminds me daily that I’m always being guided, even when I don’t feel it.
6. Speaking my truth.
This has been one of the hardest things for me to do.
I love to write. I love to share. I wrote poetry a lot when I was young, but I lost my connection to this part of myself. Over the years, I’ve had this feeling, this “niggle,” as Rebecca Campbell calls it, that I am meant to write. I tried many times, but always felt afraid to share what was truly in my heart.
That people-pleaser in me lacked confidence and was afraid of upsetting anyone. One of the delicious side effects of developing faith and soul connection is gaining clarity and confidence.
I am a writer. I know without a doubt that this is part of my soul’s purpose. There can be no more shrinking or turning away from it. It’s why I’m here.
Sharing our stories is important. It connects us to each other and says to another struggling soul, “I see you. I understand what you’re going through because I’ve been there. You’re not alone.”
I’ve also learned that not everyone will resonate with your message. Some will not understand what you’re trying to say. In truth, this is what held me back for so long. Please don’t let this stop you. If you have a message to share, share it. If you have a truth to share, speak it. The world needs your beautiful voice and the message that lives inside of you.
This may sound strange to consider anger a gift, but for me it is—and here’s why. I began to realize that I have been allowing myself to be treated poorly. I had no boundaries and have been a people-pleaser for far too long. I had given so much of myself away that I didn’t recognize me anymore.
Anger made me face my truth. I needed to stand up for myself. I needed to take my power back. I needed to stop allowing myself to be treated as less than. Anger was the driving force that allowed me to do just that; it wasn’t a fierce anger or a hostile anger, it wasn’t directed at any one person or situation in particular, it was a rising tide of strength I didn’t even know I had.
Grief is hard, and it’s going to last a long time. It’s different for everyone. You’ll never “get over” your loss. You’ll build a different life than the one you had, but you’ll always carry a piece of the people and past with you.
In the end, the best you can do is love yourself, be gentle with yourself and others, and speak your truth in a way that helps those who need it and resonate with it.