Saying goodbye is always a difficult time. It could be the end of a relationship, someone moving away, leaving a job or worst of all someone you love passing away. From 2017 – 2018 I had quite a few people pass away. It began to seem like just a product of getting older. Each one hurt and their leaving left a void in my heart. I searched to find something that would make saying goodbye just a little less painful. What I found is wonderfully displayed in this quote from one of my favorite philosophers, the loveable furry bear Winnie the Pooh.
As I thought of each of the people I cared about who passed away I realized and was taught many things. Not the least of which was this; the reason their loss hurts so much is because you loved them so much. The reason someone is loved has to do with many things. Shared great memories, being there for each other, and many other wonderful moments. How fortunate were you to have a person in your life that you shared so greatly with and loved so deeply? Many people never have that experience. As the years and people continue to pass I am forever grateful for everything they have brought to my life.
This does not make the pain of missing them any less but it does temper that feeling of loss with a feeling of gratitude. How lucky was I to have such amazing people in my life. Recently, I saw a drink that my late aunt Virginia used to love. She passed away at the end of last year. Sure it made me miss her, but it also brought back memories of times shared drinking one of these beverages. As I continued to recall other great memories of my aunt the end thought was the same, “Damn, I miss her but I sure was lucky to have such an amazing person in my life.” My heart may be filled with sadness at missing her, but there is also a smile on my face remembering all of the good times.
These thoughts are not just for those we have lost. They work just as good for those who are still here. When I leave for work in the morning my beautiful Margie is usually still lost in blissful slumber. As I drive to work I am missing the sleep I should be getting, but most of all I am just missing her. I wish I could still be in bed with her arms wrapped around me. Suddenly, I am even more frustrated I am not an independently wealthy, best-selling author….yet. Before these feelings turn my day upside down I have to reflect why I am so bothered by all of this. I have the most amazing and beautiful woman that I would much rather be with. She makes me happy and puts a smile on my face and in my heart. In an instant I go from frustrated to grateful and excited to make it through the day and be back home.
This is also true when it comes to a great workout or walk with my mother, a great conversation with my friend Russ, coffee with my friend Nick or a million other moments I wish would never end. When they are over I just reflect with gratitude on how lucky I am.
This picture really sums things up quite well. Here is something to think about, the hourglasses in this picture could easily be reversed. As I was preparing to write this I learned a close childhood friend of mine passed away on his 41st birthday. It would be nice if we all had hourglasses or some other sign to know when our time was about to expire. Here is the thing that is rather sad, as people see that your time is drawing to a close they are more likely to tell you they love you, spend quality time with you and share emotionally with you.
Why is that sad? It is sad because we should not wait until the sand in our hourglass is running out to treat each other that way. It is easy to remember when your 80 year-old relative is in the hospital, but like the passing of my friend shows, it can be any time. Treating each other with dignity, compassion and respect should be a daily activity.
Here is another thought to ponder, not only are we unable to know when the sands of time are running low for those we love, but we never know how much sand we have left ourselves. Try asking yourself every morning if today was my last day what would I want to tell those I love? In what ways would I go out of my way to spread love? The crazy thing about asking that question is one day you will be right.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Here is a copy of the latest magazine I appear in. You will find my article on page 46 (just swipe left) I would love to hear your feedback as would the magazine.
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.
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.