When I was 12 years old, my father died. Suddenly.
He left my mother a widow with three teenage daughters to look after. Years later, I have grown up, and learned to manage my life without him and deal with grief in my own way. I don’t talk much about my loss – death talk makes people uncomfortable, and frankly, at times it’s too personal to even consider sharing.
But as I have gotten older, I’ve realized that experiencing grief at such a young age gave me some invaluable lessons. In short, it’s been a gift. It doesn’t mean I wouldn’t give everything I have now for time with my dad, or I wasn’t quietly mourning for him on my wedding day, but it means that I can now see with hindsight the lessons grief has given me.
5 Incredible Lessons That Grief Will Give You
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.
– Kahlil Gibran
1. Life is short.
My father was 42 years old when he died. Whenever age is discussed, I think of it relative to his age. I am turning 32 this year, so I think to myself, “I was a decade younger then him when he died. If I knew I only had ten years left, what would I do?” Call it morbid, but my sense of time is very much aligned with knowing someone who died too soon. I know how short life is, and I feel an urgency. To do everything I want to do, to live a life well, to do more then just work a 9-5 and bring home a paycheck. To make an impact on this world. Life isn’t just short, it’s a freaking gift. And I want to treat it that way in every part of my life.
2. I know the most important things in my life.
Family is kind of everything. I have my own goals and ambitions, but I know more than anyone how long a memory can last, and the regrets of not being there or having said the things that should have been said. I never had to “learn” how important family was – losing a parent at a young age makes you acutely aware of what matters in life.
3. You have been in the pit and know how to get out of it.
Grief, in a very morbid sense, is like a death. After you experience a great loss, you become a different person. It changes you — in some ways good, in some ways not so good. But there is a death that happens to your old self, and you have to rebuild a new version of yourself. Some people stay in their caves and never leave, but for those who choose to leave the cave and continue on their journey, there is an assuredness you have: you know you can handle loss. It’s possible. You did it once, you survived, and you can do it again. I am still standing. And it takes a lot more to knock me down now.
4. You are grateful for getting older.
I literally feel anger whenever I hear “My birthday is just another day” or “I hate getting old.” I wish I could laugh it off and play to the ego that drives these thoughtless comments, but the attitude that it comes from is “I’m alive and it’s no big deal.” God allowed you another day on this incredible earth. You should be thanking your freaking stars for another day.
I don’t just celebrate my birthdays, I give thanks for them. For the time with my loved ones. For another day to pursue my purpose. If you are still here, it’s no accident. It’s a gift, and your time here should be treated as such.
5. Your legacy becomes your motivation.
The word “legacy” sounds like a super-hero motto, but it’s something that I now think about often. Every person leaves a legacy. It’s the thing people remember you by. It’s what you leave behind when you exit the earth. My motivation in life and the business I have created has become intertwined with my father’s original intention. Before he died, he had started a business he hoped would take care of his family. He died before he could see the real fruits of his labor. I want to create a business and lifestyle that will take care of my family and will help others.
My father’s legacy has become my intention, and is now my motivation. There is no way I would be as driven to succeed without his influence and the early loss I had as a 12-year-old. It’s helped me become who I am today.
Seeing the gift in hardship
The truth is, life is full of hardship, but if you can’t see the gift in hardship, it will lead to bitterness. Instead of using my “loss” as an excuse to stay comfortable or sad, it’s become my core motivation. I have used it as a gift that inspires me every day to keep striving for a better tomorrow. After all, that’s what Dad would have wanted.