Dear future Jeff,
It’s August 18, 2018 (24 hours before Suzanne dies). I want you to know a few things. After Suzanne dies, you will feel like there is little potential of anything ever making life better. You will be scared, hurting, alone (even surrounded by friends and family), completely lost, and heartbroken.
Please know that although you feel like curling up into a ball and dying from that heartbreak, you won’t.
“Potential” is an interesting word. It means “having or showing the capacity to become or develop into something in the future.” When Suzanne dies, you will feel like there is no future to develop into.
When that time comes, all you will want to ask yourself is, “What’s the point?” There won’t be a single thing that appeals to you.
Work? You will no longer be interested.
Dating? Nope. You will start too soon and be heartbroken again.
One day you will meet someone new—someone who accepts you as and where you are. You will find love again. First for yourself and then for another.
Living? Well, if I am honest with you, the only thing that will keep you waking up every morning and wanting to go on living is your daughters.
Jeff, when we grieve hard, we tend to spend too much time in our heads. We grieve for the life we had and no longer have. And we grieve for the life we had envisioned for the future. You will miss every aspect of that life. You will feel empty without it, and you will be lost.
Because we grieve the primary and secondary losses, we lose our vision of a future with our person and our vision of our own future without that person.
It doesn’t make much sense, I know, but it’s true. Too often, we close ourselves to any real possibility of achieving our potential when we are grieving. We tend to lose our core. We lose our focus and our center. We forget who and what we are.
After Suzanne dies, you will be floundering, lost, feckless, aimless, self-sabotaging, bleeding all over people who did not cause your wounds, and you will feel like you can’t go on. But you will keep going.
And when you reach the “deathiversary,” you will write about how you are a completely different person. You will be different than you were in those first few days, weeks, months, and years after Suzi dies.
Your life will have changed in so many ways that you will no longer recognize yourself. I won’t lie—it will take some seriously hard work to completely and radically change. This is especially true after how deep your grief was (and still will be).
Some of the changes will be physical and “superficial.” In 21 months you will have lost 15 pounds, and you will grow a beard (you’ll start it for the “Movember” movement, like it, and keep it). You will travel a lot. You will buy and move into your own home—the first without Suzanne. You will meet someone new.
You will also get laid off from your job—the one you were planning to leave anyway. You will start your own coaching business designed to help others like you find new purpose in their lives. You will help them find ways to work at something that truly makes them passionate. It will be some of the most rewarding and demanding work you will ever do.
But none of the changes you will go through will be bigger than the internal, mental, and emotional transformation you will undergo. You will truly begin to self-actualize, and you will rediscover your true self.
You will do all this because becoming self-actualized means you will be fulfilled, doing everything you can to achieve your fullest potential. And you will do all this because you want to be the person that Suzanne would have wanted you to become anyway.
So, in that vein, let me mention what I believe is another meaning for “potential.” That meaning is to release the “latent qualities or abilities that may be developed and lead to future success.” And this is where you will be on the day of Suzanne’s deathiversary.
You will be successful because this letter is meant to help you, Jeff. I want you to understand and know that no matter how desperate things may seem (no matter where you are in your grief journey), there is hope. You can be and become the best version of your self by believing in the potential you have inside to heal and to grow.
While no one is perfect—and you know, I believe we are all perfectly imperfect—you will have worked hard to change. You will have accepted the grief. You will have also accepted that you were not always the best husband or father, and you will have stopped most of the behaviors you exhibited when Suzanne was alive, and when the girls were children.
As part of your work, you will forgive and accept your true self, which will completely change your emotional and spiritual outlook. You are going to be far more present with others (and with yourself) than you ever have been before.
And you will create a true vision (not a dream, but a vision) of your future self. You will want to bring him out to the world. You will like that person a lot. That person has the fantastic gifts of love and kindness to give to so many other widows and widowers, and the world.
So now, I will repeat what I just said a few paragraphs ago: there is hope, Jeff.
No matter who or what you think you are (and where you may think you are in your grief journey), there is still a chance for you to be and do better. But it’s not going to be easy. It will nearly break you. And you will have to let it. You will shatter the old you and become something better—the best version of you.
Be open, be accepting, and be able to let go of the things you think you wanted. Honestly, take the time to discover your purpose, passion, and internal power. Those will be the keys to change. The catalyst will be knowing and realizing that you are enough.
By doing the hard work, especially when it might feel easier to avoid it, you will save yourself a great deal of hurt in the long run. And you will set yourself up for a much better life once you choose to do the work.
Dearest, kind, and loving Jeff, you have all my love and hopes for the future you.