On the 10-year anniversary of losing her husband, Sheila Hamilton looks back and reflects on what she has learned to keep her moving forward:
This is the ten-year anniversary of my late husband’s death. I am struck by how the body really does keep score, how the burnt orange color of the leaves and the coming of winter brings back the panic, fear, and undeniable sense of loss. We are a decade later, and still, we grieve. Trauma literally does reshape our bodies and our brain.
We have choices. Bounce forward or back. Survive or thrive. Just as I wished Sophie’s dad could have fought for his rightful claim to life, I fight for my own resilience, and I remind myself–lurking in great loss is the opportunity for deep transformation.
Since I’m relying heavily on coping tips this week, I thought I’d share a few with you. My wise sister Diane Hamilton, a Buddhist priest, introduced me to the concept of mindfulness–it works. It’s a method of observing our thoughts, rather than being a slave to the relentless ramblings of our brains.
Sophie’s ability to accept things as they are allowed us all to move forward. Reading and writing also saved my life. What else?
1. Be aware that you are breathing.
2. Look at the sky and remind yourself of the vastness of the universe.
3. Say Argh every morning: Acceptance. Resilience. Gratitude Happiness.
4. Treat yourself with the same kindness you show your child.
5. Nothing and no one can diminish the beauty or importance of your life.
6. Tell your story.
Of all of the quotes I came across in my research for ‘All the Things We Never Knew’ this one resonated It’s by Dean Koontz, a mystery writer who obviously understands the human condition:
“Grief can destroy you, or focus you. You can decide a relationship was all for nothing if it had to end in death, and you alone. Or you can realize that every moment of it had more meaning than you dared to recognize at the time. So much meaning it scared you, so you just lived, just took for granted the love and laughter of each day, and didn’t allow yourself to consider the sacredness of it. But when it’s over and you’re alone, you begin to see that it wasn’t just a movie and a dinner together, not just watching sunsets together, not just scrubbing a floor or washing dishes together or worrying over a high electric bill. It was everything. It was the why of life, every event and precious moment of it. The answer to the mystery of existence is the love you shared sometimes so imperfectly, and when the loss wakes you to the deeper beauty of it, to the sanctity of it, you can’t get off your knees for a long time. You’re driven to your knees not by the weight of the loss but by gratitude for what preceded the loss. And the ache is always there, but one day, not the emptiness, because to nurture the emptiness, to take solace in it, is to disrespect the gift of life.”
Sheila Hamilton is a five-time Emmy award-winning journalist and the host of Portland, Oregon’s #1 rated morning show. Her book, All the Things We Never Knew is the story of her husband’s descent into mental illness and her advocacy for people with lived experience.
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