78: Find Your Path

78: Find Your Path

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Grieving and Recovery

Find Your Path

Sometimes in tragedy we find our life’s purpose—the eye sheds a tear to find its focus.

~Robert Brault, www.robertbrault.com

In May of 1995, I suddenly lost my wife Jody to a very rare illness called a pheochromacytoma. All of this transpired within 24 hours. It felt like a horrible dream.

Robert Frost once said, “There is a time for departure, even when there is no certain place to go.” Our two daughters and I had no choice but to take a new direction in our lives. I’m not ashamed to tell you I was terrified. I was always a pretty good father but I needed reinforcements since this was new, scary territory.

I tapped into a spiritual strength I never knew I had. I spoke out loud to God whenever I was alone: in the shower, in the car, at night in bed. I asked to be blessed with divine guidance, courage, strength, and to say and do the right things for my girls. I began meditating daily for about 20 minutes, which I still do to this day.

I visualized doing things together with my girls and I saw them thriving. Those were my daily images—only positive outcomes. I found comfort in books such as Elizabeth Kübler-Ross’s On Death and Dying, Hope Edelman’s Motherless Daughters and Bill Cosby’s Fatherhood.

I learned firsthand what it truly means to be grateful for life and those we love. I worked very hard at balancing what was normal for my girls and not ignoring the death of their mother. Julia, Lauren and I hugged and cried every day. I made certain that they knew emotionally that we had one another.

If I sensed they were going into a shell, I would try to interact and relate to them by asking them questions about friends, clothes, school, etc. I made it a point to do everything as a family. We went grocery shopping together, out for ice cream, and I had them help make dinner on a regular basis. I wanted them to feel secure and know their dad wasn’t going anywhere.

Over time, I had developed insomnia. The sudden absence of Jody in our bed left me awake until late hours of the night, reading, watching TV and just thinking. My heart and soul felt so empty that I wondered if I would ever feel whole again.

After not sleeping for a few weeks I had the urge to be as close to Jody as I could be. And so, every night for weeks, I sat on the floor of Jody’s walk-in closet, picked out one of her blouses and wrapped it around my neck and shoulders. Breathing her in, I’d cry myself to sleep. At first I didn’t tell the girls about it, but something told me to share it all with them. I think it helped the girls feel okay about their own experiences and sharing them with me.

After a week home, the school counselor and I had agreed that my daughters’ lives should get back to normal. So, Lauren and Julia had gone back to school. I remember their first day back was a beautiful sunny day. When I met them at the bus stop, I could tell they were upset, which was to be expected. We walked home in tense silence, and once we entered the safe haven of the house, both girls burst into tears. After a few moments of a much needed emotional release, they shared their day with me.

Amazingly they’d discovered a pair of sisters, one in Lauren’s class and the other in Julia’s, who had lost their mother to breast cancer one week before our loss. I remembered thinking to myself, “I need to reach out to their father Kevin and let him know he’s not alone.”

I decided right then to create a support group for fathers who’d lost their wives. And thus began my journey toward becoming a Life Coach.

I started looking at everything differently. I turned down a promotion at work that promised a raise, but more travel, and instead took a lower level position to be closer to home and more available to my girls. My self-reflection eventually led me to completely walk away from corporate America to focus on my Life Coach career.

As my priorities shifted, I became aware of the joy, peace and love that are possible in simple everyday things. My previous notions of what I wanted for my life fell away. I know that when life closes one door, another one always opens. It is my deepest desire to help others find the best path to their open door. If you find the courage to embark on the journey after the loss of a loved one, I know you’ll find that open door, for your new path awaits you in your heart and soul, just waiting to be discovered.

~Larry Agresto

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