I remember the first time I heard it. As a teen probably. It seemed to hold such promise. And truth.
“Today is the first day of the rest of your life”.
But when you are learning how to live life again, much less a new life, with the death of someone you love, I think these words take on new meaning.
“Today is the first day...”
January 1st brings us the opportunity to take stock, if we are able. Willing. In life. Our own.
Where am I headed? What am I creating? Who am I becoming? If I were able/willing to trust, to dream (again), what would that dream be? For my life?
These are my suggestions for this new year. 2011.
21 years after the death of my daughter, Erin. 11 years after the death of my wife, Trici. And now six years after my son Rory died.
I give these to you. As my gift. Hoping to light your tunnel this new year.
1. Set the intention to heal. Even if you don’t believe healing your “broken” self is possible, repeat the phrase, “I am healing” as often as you can. Let it become your mantra. “I am healing.” Lean into your healing.
2. Commit to active mourning. “Go public” with your grief (the internal, automatic response to loss). Find a therapist, a support group, a “grief buddy.” Healing occurs when you find a safe place where you can excavate, explore and express your grief in the presence of others. Being stoic, pretending, repressing, rejecting, ignoring all that wells up inside of you is not a path to healing. Mourning, in the presence of others, is.
3. Commit to creating a safe, sacred space for you and the people you love. A space where everyone gets to feel exactly what they feel. A space where every single corner of your being is loved and loveable – by you and everyone you let into that space. A space where you are seen. Heard. Honored. Most importantly by yourself, and, of course, by everyone you allow to enter your space.
4. Commit to going outside and walking in nature every day. Even if it is only for five minutes. Even if you have to force yourself. Build up to ten minutes. 15. 20. Connect with nature. Feel yourself in your own body. Pay attention to your feet hitting the ground. The breeze on your face... notice.
5. Commit to finding ways to release the heavy, burdensome energy stored in your body. A massage therapist can help you physically relax and he/she can help your body release stored energy and memory that no longer serves you. If you are living in a cold climate… consider a massage with hot stones on a cold winter day. Work with a Reiki master, a Craniosacral therapist or any other energy worker. At the very least, the physical touch will be healing.
6. Commit to spending quiet time with yourself every day – to simply BE with yourself and your new life. If you have to force yourself to be quiet and alone for five minutes – do it. If you keep running from yourself and your new life, how can you live it? How can you consciously participate in it? Your own life. Pray. Meditate. Ask. Listen. Receive. Allow. Surrender. Feel. Cry.
7. Commit to writing in a gratitude journal every day. First thing in the morning or last thing at night. Write 5 things you are grateful for every day. Every day.
8. Commit to asking and answering life’s fundamental questions. Questions such as: Is there a God? If so, what is he/she/it/they? What happens to people when they die? Do they still exist? Where are they? Is the person I love who died still aware of me? Can he/she communicate with me? What role did “God” play in my beloveds’ death? Then listen. Listen as the answers bubble into being. As you heal, these answers may change. Be open to change.
9. Commit to identify and question all your beliefs that are causing you pain. Unless you want to marinate in pain. You, and only you, get to decide what you believe. It’s your unexamined beliefs that are causing you great pain. Beliefs that may include: “He shouldn’t have died. She died too young. I could have saved him. I will never be happy again. Life is no longer worth living.” Replace these painful beliefs with life-affirming beliefs.
10. Commit to being gentle with yourself. Really gentle. Trusting life enough so that you are willing to create new dreams takes time. Lots of time. Healing is a process. It’s a journey. Be gentle.
As this New Year unfolds… set the intention to heal. Set the intention to consciously participate in your own transformation.
Commit to a plan.
A New Year. A New Life. The life you were born to live. Starting now.