THE GIFT OF GRIEF

The gift of grief? This sounds like one of those cliché book titles you may see as you make your way through the bookstore. If you are reading this while going through a moment of grief,  it may be a sentiment you are tempted to give a middle finger to. What gift could possibly be gained in a feeling of such tremendous loss and pain? What is there to possibly be gained by having part of you forever taken from you? How can we call the loneliness and emptiness that we feel upon waking, or when we are alone in our beds a gift? Is there anything good about those random moments of sadness we experience when we witness something that reminds us of the loved one we lost?

I am not here to tell you grief is a good thing. It sucks. It is not something any of us would choose to feel, nor anything we wish others to feel. What I am here to say is that there are things that only grief can teach us. There are things that our hearts may never know, or at the very least, never fully appreciate without grief. This, in its own way also sucks. Wouldn’t it be great if we could go through life without ever having to experience loss or grief? Why can’t we all learn everything we need to know without having to experience these emotions? That is not how life works, unfortunately.

While there is no correct way to grieve, or time limit for grieving, there are some things that are universal when it comes to grief. Lessons that grief teaches us all regardless of faith, race or nationality. This was brought home to me the other day. Last year I had lost two aunts in one week’s time. The hospice they were at along with a funeral home, hosted a ‘group memorial’ for everyone who had lost someone. As we pulled up to the building we noticed the parking lot was full. Upon entering we sat in two of the last seats available. You were given a program in which all of the names of the deceased were listed. There were over 100 names. They included every nationality, every race and as they read details of the individuals, it became clear every age as well.

I noticed all of these very different people were experiencing the same thing – grief. We may not have agreed on politics, religion or even what sports team to cheer for, but at that moment all of us could relate to the feeling of sadness and loss we felt. In this way, grief can be a common denominator. No matter where you live in the world, what faith you follow or what sports team you like, death will visit you in your lifetime.

Grief also teaches us humility. In the parking lot you could see there were people who drove very expensive sports cars and those who drove cars that were barely moving. Both of these people had experienced loss. Money cannot save you from grief. It does not matter if you are a CEO or if you work in the mail room, grief will visit you.

Grief, in its own odd way, teaches us the value of life. There were those who were quite young that passed away from auto accidents or perfectly healthy individuals that were suddenly taken from cancer or other terrible health conditions. Loss teaches us to value the lives and times with those in our life. We may never know when we may loose them. It is often after a loss of someone we love that we are tempted to call those we love just to tell them we love them. We go home to hug our children or our spouse and hold them extra tight, grateful we still have them to hold.

Grief also teaches us the value of our own lives. When I was diagnosed last year with several heart problems it made me realize how fleeting life could be. It motivated me to be the best man that I can be. Every night I make sure that the woman in my life knows how beautiful she is to me and how much I love her because I may not have that chance to tell her tomorrow. My second book had been in the works for five years leading up to that point. I was diagnosed in June, it was finished by September. Knowing intellectually that we only have so much time on this earth is motivating, but feeling that emotionally is far more motivating.

Grief and loss suck. There is no arguing that. It is through grief, however, that life becomes so precious. Memories become treasures more valuable than gold. Every blooming flower and song of a bird become a gift to be appreciated. Loved ones and the love we share with them become our most valuable possessions. Our time becomes the most important asset we have.

Grief is terrible. Grief is hard and grief is terribly personal. Still, even in the darkest of times we are given many gifts. Let us not waste our grief, but let it color our life. Not just with sadness, although that will always be a part of our loss, but let it also intensify our love. Let our grief allow us to appreciate the beauty in the little things, and understand they really are the big things. Let us not only treasure our memories of those we have lost, but let us be motivated to create memories with those who are still here so that when we are gone we may leave with them the gift that those who have went before us have shared with us.

SIMPLE SOLUTIONS

Let us begin this post with a disclaimer. Although the title of this post is “Simple Solutions” I do realize not all problems have simple solutions. Although the picture offers unique and creative ways of addressing the problems listed I realize there are very few ‘one size fits all’ solutions. All this being said, let us take a look at a few of these ideas.

I am going to just talk about a few, but I would love to hear your feedback on any you have tried or any you think may work better. Let us look at the one on grief. Loss, sadness usually is one of the most difficult things to overcome. This takes time and patience. Just as a physical wound takes time to heal, so does a spiritual and emotional wounds. Just like its physical counterparts, the bigger the emotional or spiritual wound, the longer it takes to heal. How can starting a new ritual help? Rituals not only help define who we are, but often determine who we are. When you are stressed if your ritual is to go for a run, that will have an entirely different outcome than if your ritual for stress is to drink yourself to sleep. Rituals can also help keep us present and pay honor to people and beliefs. Starting a new ritual can help us heal by reminding us to enjoy the present while mourning the past. Ritual can serve honor to the loss we are grieving. Rituals can also serve as a great reminder that our life has more to live. That is a very important message to give ourselves.

If you are lonely, calling someone you love just to say “hello” is a great solution for several reasons. One, it is proactive. Loneliness can often be accompanied by or followed by a feeling of helplessness. By reaching out to someone else we are exercising control. The other reason is simple, it will bring them joy. How will it make you feel to bring someone else joy? How will that affect your loneliness? Lastly, who is to say they are not feeling a little lonely themselves? Even if they are not feeling lonely, who would not want to hear a “Hello” from a dear friend? Somebody calling with no agenda other than to share a good conversation.

Lastly, the solution offered for feeling inadequate. Remember your strengths. I feel it is a good idea to keep a list of both your strengths and accomplishments nearby at all times. When I feel that my writing isn’t reaching anyone or making the impact I desire I have a list of people I have helped in the past. I also can look at my Amazon.com review on my book A Happy Life for Busy People. If you want to add to them, I would certainly welcome your contribution. The world is always to quick to tell you what it is you are no good at. It is up to us to often be our own cheerleaders.

Take this list as a suggestion. An even better idea is to create one of your own. After all, nobody knows better what works for you than you. Think of the areas of your life and emotions that always seem to get you down. Create a chart like the one above tailored to you personally. Feel free to leave some of your suggestions to help others get started.

YOU TOO CAN SEE THE GOOD!

Today’s post is a guest post brought to us kindly from Kathy via her blog See the Good. there will be a link at the end of this post for you to check out more of Kathy’s wonderful blog. It not only helps us shift the focus to one of positivity, but gives us tools and ideas to do so.

A little more about today’s post. Kathy’s words on her personal definition of faith and how it helped her deal with the loss of a loved one close to the holidays is a message I feel could benefit a lot of us this time of the year. I encourage you to learn a little bit more about the author, enjoy the post and then do what I do, check out See the Good for your daily dose of inspiration.

Kathy is a wife, a mother, a friend and a writer. Her interests range from scuba diving and riding motorcycles to staying home with a good book or movie. She also enjoys the rejuvenating effect of time spent in nature with her husband. Writing has always been a passion of hers throughout her careers as a landscape designer, sales or as a laborer. Understanding the power of words to hurt or heal, Kathy is the first to put them into a positive healthy use with the aid of family and friends.

The holiday season seems to be a signal to me that after all of the celebrating there is an end coming. In most cases, it is the end of a year which is followed by an opportunity for a new beginning if we choose to take it. New Year’s resolutions can range from being more fiscally responsible, to personal health goals or working to become more mindful of the world around us. But each person must make the choice to set a goal for the new year and then invest the effort in reaching it. Sadly, many of these goals fall from our minds in just a week or two.

This time of year always makes me think of days gone by and loved ones who I miss a great deal. And it also makes me think about the future, both theirs and mine. I have lost a few very special people close to the holidays, and that always pulls my thoughts to their transition. The folks we lost close to the holidays have been mercifully taken to relieve them of their pain, and the burden that their earthly body had become. I try to look deep into my heart and feel enough joy for them that it blocks out my own selfish pain and sorrow.

During these moments I also begin to evaluate my own beliefs and faith. I say faith because I don’t have another word for it, but many would accuse me of stealing a word that they hold reverent and using it in a blasphemous manner. They look at me and say that I have no right to the term, or any right to expect mercy when my journey comes to an end. I have not lived the life of a good Christian, nor should I expect to be welcomed as if I were one.

And for many years I believed them. I even worked to come to terms with my fate as they described it. I had religion forced on me as a child, teen and even young adult and I just never fit into the mold. I will admit to, and even own, my rebellious nature, my incessant need to ask why and my stubborn nature which were all seen as issues by the church. The older I got, the more clearly I understood that these were a part of who I am and not parts that I was willing to give up to conform to someone else’s description of a good Christian.

But somewhere along the way, I also began to understand that nothing in this world is a one size fits all equation. We are all unique, and we were meant to be that way. If some higher power wanted a flock of replications, then that is what we would all be. But we are not. Now my reflections were focusing more on what I was doing and not what I was not doing. I did believe in some higher being and in heaven. I pictured each of my loved ones in that setting. They were no longer in pain or ill. They were happy, healthy and whole again. I can’t think of any other term for what I pictured, other than heaven.

So as it turned out, I did believe, just in my own way. For many years, I kept this revelation to myself, because a small part of me still thought that I might be doing things all wrong. And that in the end, I would not be going where I thought I was. After my father passed, I had a long talk with my aunt. She is an amazing lady, who can be quite the fireball. But she has a heart of gold, and she always call it like she sees it. Rosemary was never one to be the pushy religious type, and I never recall hearing of her attending church regularly, so I felt we could be kindred spirits in a way.

She told me that she knew exactly where my Dad was, and it was heaven for sure. She knew this because she has a personal relationship with the man upstairs. I must have been very quiet at that point because she paused a moment, and then went on to tell me that she didn’t need any intermediary and neither did I. A church was fine for some people but others could choose to speak directly, and the man upstairs would still hear us. I felt such relief having someone whom I respected and loved so much, finally affirming that I did have faith. And that I was doing it right, or at least right for me.

Many years later another very special person shared her thoughts with me and helped me define what I have, even more clearly. Janet said that in her heart she felt that religion was more oriented to a church or formal relationship with a higher power, while spirituality was a more individual relationship. That thought just seemed to resonate within my heart and soul. And between these two ladies, I have found the comfort and security of knowing where I will be when I find the end of my journey here on earth.

I believe that for me, my faith is a very personal thing. It is a relationship with a higher being that is mine, and mine alone. Because that is what works for me. I have no right to judge anyone else’s relationship, faith, beliefs or spirituality, just as I have no right to judge any of their other feelings or beliefs. For that reason, I very, very rarely will speak of God or how any person should find or relate to God or religion. But every once in a while, I remember how two special people showed me that I should trust my feelings and my own beliefs. And that my feelings are right, because they work for me. And in their honor, I share my story to offer hope, relief, and understanding to others out there who might be wondering if they have made a big mistake. My advice is simple… it is never a mistake to follow your heart. You were created to be a completely unique individual, and that is what makes you special and irreplaceable. Follow your heart, use your gifts and find peace in knowing that they will take you where you are meant to go. You are never alone, you have not been forgotten and your thoughts and prayers will be heard.

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HOW CAN I LIVE WITHOUT YOU?

HOW DO I LIVE WITHOUT YOU? For those of us who have lived an appreciable amount of time this is a question we have asked. Maybe to ourselves, maybe to God, maybe to the universe or maybe to those who have passed away. We are left with words we wish we would have said, or things we wish we would have done with those we have lost. Even more often we see things that remind us of those who have passed on and we wish we could share those things with them.

What do we do with all of these thoughts? What do we do with all of this love? Let me begin by saying there is no right or wrong way to grieve. Whatever helps you get through is what you must do, as long is it does not bring harm to yourself or others. What I am about to share with you is what I feel not only helps me deal with loss, but helps others and honors those I am missing. If it doesn’t work for you that is ok. If you are looking for something to help you, it might be worth giving a try.

Why I am sharing this with you today? Last week I attended the Wisconsin State Fair, one of my favorite places to be. I even was fortunate enough to write several articles about the fair, including one for chow down in Milwaukee in which I mentioned going to the State Fair with my grandfather at least once a year. That sure made me miss that. It started to bring to mind people I have lost and what I always do to honor them.

In addition a few of the days I had parked a few blocks away next to a lady I had known for years in the neighborhood. This wonderful lady had lost her son a few years ago and was really having a tough time coming to terms with it. I cannot imagine the pain a parent would feel losing a child. It is something I wish no parent ever had to feel or go through. On a few occasions she stopped me to share stories about her son and how much she was still missing him. These moments often resulted in tears shared as well. She also shared stories with me from support groups she attended and what others in situations similar to hers were going through. Some of them were so painful I am not even going to share them here.

Needless to say, there are far too many parents going through this pain. With the rise of the opioid crisis, sadly the numbers look to be climbing. What solace can we offer anyone who has experienced a loss? That is the question that kept bouncing around in my head as I was hoping to offer something to this lady that would bring her even a measure of peace. What I told her is simply two things that I find work. Again, I am not sure they will help her, although I hope they do.

First, I mentioned keeping a journal in which she could write to her son. When she was having an especially hard night she could sit down and have a ‘conversation’ with her son. Sure, it is really a one-sided conversation, but it can be quite rewarding. From a practical standpoint it can help us get a better handle on what exactly we are feeling. The act of writing something down can bring a great amount of clarity. Especially it such an emotionally charged situation as death and grief.

It can also be a safe and healthy place to share our feelings. Sharing our feelings of sadness and grief each and every second can leave us wondering if we are being emotionally draining to others. Even if we have to most wonderful people in our lives who are extremely supportive, there are things we may not be comfortable sharing with others that we would want to say to our loved one who has left us.

The other idea I shared with her is an idea I began to put into practice when I lost my Grandmother. It has seen me through several moments of loss. That is doing what the picture above advocates. Taking the love that you have for that person you have lost and spreading it around. How do we manage to do this? Make sure you share what you feel with others. Never let a day go by without bringing light to another’s life.

The best way that I have found to honor others while healing myself is to do my best to replace some of the light the world has lost with their passing. I recall my Grandmother being welcoming and hospitable. So now I do my best to be that way. Whether it is when I DJ shows with Margie or even having people over for dinner, I do my best to get them what they need and be a gracious host. Certainly, you will not be able to do everything the person who has passed away could do. That is part of what makes each person in this world such a special gift. My Grandmother made a great cheesecake. I simply do not share her talent for that.

I humbly offered to this lady there might be a way to share some of the light her son shared while he was alive. She thought and mentioned how at his funeral people in a wrestling chat room he belonged to told her how much he always cheered them up. She said, “Maybe I could join that chat room and cheer up those young men.” I told her that was one great idea and she could always come up with more as time went on.

Nothing will ever replace the loss of a loved one, nor should it. We feel sadness and pain because we loved and loved a great soul. If there are ways we can honor our loved ones and bring a measure of joy and happiness to our souls and the world around us I believe it is worth a shot. Again, I put this forth to you with humble suggestion. There is no right or wrong way to deal with grief, this is merely what works for me and I share it with you in hopes it may help you as well.

If there is another way you use that helps you with the pain and sense of loss you feel, please share it in the comments below. There are a lot of others who are hurting and by coming together we may be able to bring a measure of peace to them. At the very least we can let them know they are not alone.

STARFISH STORY

In my work there are many days in which I feel I am not creating the impact I would like. Stats may be down on my YouTube channel or blog post. Maybe there are not ‘likes’ or comments on a particular post and I can wonder, “Is anyone reading this?” My goal is to help create a world filled with positivity in which people can coexist despite their differences. I enjoy facilitating dialogue between parties in an effort to create an understanding, or at the very least a sense of compassion.

Most of us have days where we feel that we are just not making a difference. It can be professionally, personally or something different entirely. It is on those days I am reminded of the story above. There have been days people have come up to be and mentioned how my writing has affected them. Some say it has helped them make it through a hard time. Others mention that it helps them keep perspective. One gentleman even told me this website and what I write here helped him think twice when he pondered taking his own life. Often I find myself being humbled by these compliments. It is then I sit back, and like the little boy, can say “I made a difference to that one.”

Another aspect of helping that one person we must keep in mind is the ripple effect. By inspiring, helping or saving one person, you never know what they may go on to do for others. It is like the movie It’s a Wonderful Life. We not be able to see what the world would have been like if we had not been there, but rest assured you make a difference.

While I would enjoy thousands of likes and views on YouTube or Secret2anamazinglife.com, I must remember the difference I made in the lives I have and use that to continue. Every time I get behind the keyboard I think of the soul who feels they have no reason to go on. I imagine sitting across the table from the teenager who is pondering taking their own life after being the victim of a bully. I think of the single parent who just lost their job, or the person who just lost their spouse of many years. It is for these wonderful souls and countless others that I write what I do.

I encourage you to remember that if you positively affect even just one life, you are changing the world. I am constantly reminded how little we know how many people we affect when I run into someone who tells me although they never mention anything online, the read what I write everyday and it makes a big impact in their life. I usually respond that I never even knew they read my writing. I am sure there are many more people we all positively affect that we never know.

Keep being a light in the world of darkness. If someone has inspired you, let them know. It may be just the motivation they need to keep going. I personally cannot express how much it means to me to hear how my writing affects people. Every time I do I want to run to my laptop and write some more. I want to take a second and thank each and every person who has inspired me.

LOVE IS THE REWARD

We have spent the last few posts discussing relationships. How to increase the odds of finding a good one. How important it is to bring the best version of you to the relationship you are in. How important it is to respect yourself while you are respecting your partner. These are all great ideas. They are not always easy to do, but the reward is certainly worth it. What is that reward? It is a relationship that supports and adds joy to your life. Whether that be a great friendship or an intimate relationship.

Even while working hard to craft these skills, life can put us in situations that make maintaining our joyful and loving relationship difficult at best. Although it may not look like it from the outside, Margie and my relationship is no different. From the beginning we dealt with people whose self-serving nature tried their best to pull us apart. Add to that issues of family stress, working in the bar industry where the idea of a healthy relationship and the respect shown to other relationships is extremely low. Makes life challenging at times. Recently, you add the passing of quite a few people close to us, most recently Margie’s mother and my discovery and hospitalization for a genetic heart issue and you can imagine there is almost as much stress as there is love at times.

How do we, and more to the point, how can you deal with the stress of life and keep on loving? Whether it is family, friends or your spouse the answer is the same. The easiest, and to be honest, most enjoyable way to do this is to realize the little things are the big things. This sounds cliché, as many things with love can, but the reason something is said so often is because there is truth in it. How can we turn the little things into the big things? How can we take a cliché and turn it into a part of our lives? Allow me to share with you a few personal examples that may help you.

The way Margie and I accomplish this is first and foremost keeping an attitude of gratitude. When we have challenges in our relationships, or even in our life in general, it can be easy to lose sight of all that we have to be grateful for. If we are so busy with work we do not have time to sit down to a wonderful dinner together, at least we have each other and something to eat. When one of us complains, the other does their best to find something to be grateful for in the situation. It helps that both of us have this desire.

In the middle of  the whirlwind of stress we often face, there is one thing we do more than any couple I know and it makes all the difference. We love. What I mean is in the middle of a karaoke show, or last night while shopping at Best Buy, if one of us feels love for the other we show it. This can be anything from stopping for a quick hug or kiss, or even just focused compliments and words of affection. Last Friday while doing a show I happened to notice just how beautiful Margie looked at that moment and I told her. I held her hand looked in her eyes and said, “I’m sorry I know we are really busy, but I just had to let you know how beautiful you look to me right now.” The words touched Margie who thanked me and leaned over and gave me a kiss. Sadly, the grown woman who was standing next to our DJ area who witnessed this responded in what I can only describe as a immature and cynical way. She said “Eww! Eww!” and made a motion like she was going to get sick. Did I mention the bar atmosphere can often not be the best place for a couple?

In your own relationships, take time to make sure the little things become the big things. Whether it is family, coworkers, friends or the special someone you love, take time to show appreciation and gratitude. When you feel love for that person make sure you pause and take time to express that. It could be a hug, an email, a card or a quick phone call. When you see two people sharing a moment like this try and understand all the stress and challenges they may be facing. Taking time to enjoy each other, even if only for a quick hug or kiss may be the special reward that keeps that relationship working.

DON’T START TO MOLD

This post I cannot claim entire credit for. In fact, it was a great collaboration of ideas. My friend came up to visit from out of town and within five minutes of sitting down together we were coming up with great ideas to assist people in living more positive and rewarding lives. Interestingly enough these ideas were not solely generated by things we have read or learned in some random seminar, but by our own life experiences.

Allow me to let you in on a little of our conversation. Mold, mildew two words that seldom if ever garner a positive response. How do these conditions exist? Moisture is trapped on a surface and is not allowed to evaporate or escape. Eventually mold and mildew begin to form. Once they take hold they grow and spread rapidly. Unless the area is treated with a special cleaner (I have found the one above to work especially well) and well ventilated. In other words, the moisture must be allowed to escape and evaporate or the mold will reappear.

As most of you know this is not a website dedicated to bathroom cleaning, but to becoming the best versions of ourselves. How do the two connect on this issue? It refers to grieving. Not so long ago my friend had lost his mom. In a vain attempt to maintain an image he fostered he fought his grief. He kept all the tears he had inside for fear of appearing weak or sad. Much like our example above, by keeping his tears, or moisture, inside of him he began to form mold and mildew inside his spirit. It continued to grow and overcome him from the inside. killing off his happiness, his ability to socialize effectively with others. He even tried to treat the problem by drinking. It was no more effective than washing mold with water. It may looked good at first, but the mold came back stronger than ever.

It wasn’t until my friend finally let his tears flow, until he got that moisture out of him that he was able to move forward. The mold and mildew inside his soul dried up and went away. He was able to become happy again. Not that he still did not grieve and miss his mother, quite the opposite, he was honest about those feelings and allowed them to show.

If you have pain, if you have grief, do not hold in your tears. Do not let society or others dictate how you express that grief. If you do your soul may begin to mold. Let your tears flow. Be honest with your feelings. If you need help, please seek help. Whether it is the shoulder of a good friend, a support group or one on one therapy, give your grief an outlet. Then and only then will you be able to heal.

WHAT NOW?

When I decided to be a motivational speaker I thought it would be an easy and natural progression. Taking the material in both my book and website and sharing it with people would be simple and enjoyable. What challenges could come from sharing how to live a more positive and rewarding life with others.

I have discovered being able to appreciate the beauty in others and express that beauty in the written words has bestowed upon me one of the most challenging, yet personally rewarding honors I have faced. In the past 12 months I have spoken at 5 funerals. Being asked to speak about the life of someone who everyone in attendance cared so deeply for is both a tremendous honor, and great responsibility. One that I do not take lightly. It has also taught me to learn and think a great deal about how I approach the subject of death. In doing so, I have discovered what will not only help ease the burden of grief we feel when we lose someone we love but will help them live on every day in our lives. I would like to share what I learned with all of you in hopes it may help you or someone you know who may be experiencing the grief of losing someone you love.

On May 8th our family experienced a great loss in the mother of my lovely lady, Margie. Shortly after her mom’s passing, Margie asked if I would like to speak at the funeral. I must confess to having cringed a little. Being that my love and respect for both of those ladies was quite high, it was an honor, but it would be an emotional challenge to deliver. Certainly, when asked to perform such an important honor, it is hard to say no. As I began to think about what I would say, a new challenge presented itself. I was about to compose words about the woman the lady in my life was lucky enough to call her mom. Nothing but the best would do. The words came to me at 3 o’clock one morning. I grabbed my laptop to capture them.

In all my writing I try to give the reader something they can use to reduce the stress, or in this case grief in their life and add some joy or positivity. Fortunately for me, Margie’s mother, Ruthanne, led life that provided most of what I needed to say.

Most eulogies include memories of the person they honor. I wanted to do something a little different. I wanted to answer the question that all of us, in some form or fashion, have in our hearts and minds when we lose someone we love – now what? What do we do now that we have lost a great parent, grandparent, spouse or even dear friend? How do we keep them alive both in our hearts and the world around us? How can we help their legacy live on?

I am going to share what works for me in hopes that it may help you. I have found although honoring someone with a memorial or candle-light vigil is thoughtful, the event is over in a day. For me, the best way to keep someone alive in our hearts and in our daily life is to replace some of the light the world has lost with their passing. I would like to explain this further by using the life of Ruthanne as an example. I must add Ruthanne gave more light in her 79 years than most people could do if given 179 years. Her life could best be summed up by recalling her last few days with us here on earth.

When Ruthanne was told her time on earth was ending, she voiced two desires. It wasn’t a fancy car or an exotic vacation. She wanted to go to the casino and karaoke one more time. She wanted to die as she lived, feeling the joy in her life, surrounded by the people she loved. Ruthanne understood that joy and peace are more important than status or wealth.

When it became clear she was not going to leave the hospital we asked her if she would like us to bring her anything. Her answer spoke volumes. She said quite firmly, “I don’t need things. I need people.” Ruthanne understood the material gifts we are given we cannot take with us, but the lives we touch and the memories we create is what will live on long after we are gone. She knew the most valuable gift we can give someone is our time and our love. That is what she wanted from us.

It was not receiving that gift that most concerned Ruthanne. Every person who visited her in the hospital asked her the same question, “How are you doing?” You might think she would lament the conditions that plagued her or the time she had left. Not once did I hear this. Instead, she asked people how they were doing. She did not do this just for conversation, but with the genuine sincerity of someone who truly cares. She asked to see pictures of babies and how their jobs were going. Ruthanne understood how important it is to let someone know they are loved and significant.

If you attended Ruthanne’s funeral or visited her in the hospital you would notice the people she surrounded herself with came from every race, culture and creed. Ruthanne may joke with you about your look some days, but she would never let how someone looked stop her from loving them. Although a Christian, she would not let believing in a different faith stop her from loving you. Ruthanne gave us the gift of acceptance.

Sometimes, those she loved let her down. They may have been in trouble with the law, developed habits or addictions they shouldn’t have, or even hurt her or the ones she loved. I think at some point all of us that knew her failed to live up to our own standard. What did she do when this happened? She loved us anyway. Ruthanne gave us the gift of forgiveness.

With all the gifts mentioned above that she gave us, it is easy to see why at the 79th birthday party Margie threw her over 100 people showed up. If I were to guess almost three times that many either visited or sent well-wishes when she was in the hospital. With that much love and popularity you could not blame Ruthanne if she would boast with the rest of them. When she was told people had to leave her room because more were waiting to visit her she would tell us, “I don’t know why people love me so much. I am just me.” Ruthanne gave us the gift of humility.

Ruthanne gave me those gifts and I must add giving birth to the most beautiful woman I share my life with. Sadly, she will no longer be here to teach me these gifts in person. It falls upon me and those she knew, in her honor and memory, to share these gifts with those lives we touch. Every time I am accepting, forgiving, every time I make someone laugh or remind them how important and loved they are, I will think of and thank Ruthanne for being a living example of these virtues and many more.

When we lose someone we truly love, let us all work together to replace the light the world has lost with their passing. It will not only help ease our grief, it will keep them with us every day we share the gifts that they gave us.

QUICK! DO IT NOW!

One of the greatest challenges about showing people how to reduce their stress and increase their joy is convincing them of the importance of doing it now. After all, if your life is fairly happy why would you worry about techniques to handle stressful situations? You have enough on your plate with your job, the kids and figuring out if your favorite show is on Netflix. You will worry about it when life becomes stressful. The analogy I often use in my seminar is this, when would the best time to learn to swim be? While you are safe on the shore or when you are in the middle of the ocean in a boat that is sinking? When you are on shore it may seem silly to worry about swimming, but trying to learn as sharks are grabbing bottles of meat tenderizer is not ideal in anyway.

This became very apparent to me this past week. A lady I had been in a relationship with for 20 years, and then remained friends with for 4 years after passed away after losing her battle with cancer. It was a very hard and trying moment for me. Lots of feelings came up that were not fun, regret, sadness, frustration and lots of other not so pleasant emotions. All of this is natural and certainly ok to feel when someone passes away. Thankfully, I am blessed to be in a relationship with a lady who really knows and cares about me. Not only was she supportive, but gently reminded me of everything I have learned, teach and believe. The tools I have learned and developed that help the spirit stay resilient and to help heal sadness.

Before we continue, allow me to share a few of them with all of you as someone may be going through the same thing, and most certainly we all will at some point in time. When someone passes away we are all left with the question as to how to carry on their memory in both our hearts and the world around us. Personally, I have never been a fan of sorrowful days of mourning or candlelight vigils. Not that there is anything wrong with those, but I believe the best way to honor someone who has passed away is to try and rekindle some of the light the world has lost with their passing. Did they have a good sense of humor? Work on sharing yours a little more. Did they love animals? Maybe you can contribute to an animal charity?

I am grateful for two things in this very trying time. First, that I have a loving and wonderful lady in my life who can walk the fine line of being supportive and reminding me to use what I know to help myself as well as others. Second, that I have spent the last two decades learning and developing techniques to help keep a positive outlook in the face of trying times. If I had waited until after the funeral to try to discover ways to help me heal, I would be swimming with the sharks.

I encourage you to learn now. You never know when life will give you something major to deal with. Losing someone close to you, losing a job, or maybe even a relationship ending. If at that time you already have some tools in place, recovering from those situations will be a little less painful. There is always a sense of loss and sadness, and that is certainly more than ok. It means you cared for that relationship, job or the person who passed away. We must learn how to not only heal ourselves, but help others to do the same. I encourage you to start now. Feel free to click on the link below to order my book A Happy Life for Busy People, read the posts featured on this site or take other steps to learn effective ways to reduce stress, increase joy and become the best version of yourself. Love and light to all of those struggling.

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