Losing a child is the worst thing that can happen to a parent, according to Gloria Horsley, PhD and founder of Open to Hope. She made this observation on a radio talk show.
Since the worst thing has already happened to you, Horsley continued, you take chances and do things like founding a foundation. I understand her point. After my daughter died in 2007, I started to take more chances.
In the past, I tended to be a conservative person, but that has changed. I’ve said things I never thought I would say and done things I never thought I would do. In short, I have surprised myself.
If you are just starting your grief journey, you may not have taken any chances yet. But as your journey progresses, you may become more adventurous.
One of my friends is the widow of a physician. She and her husband used to take long trips together. Now, instead of taking trips with her husband, she travels alone and takes mini trips on weekends. “I just get in the car and go,” she said with a smile.
The Chances You Take
Your definition of taking chances may differ from mine. For me, taking chances is speaking my mind, getting involved in new projects, and accepting new challenges. Judy Tatelbaum, in her book The Courage to Grieve, makes an interesting observation in the epilogue. She originally wrote the book to recover from the loss of her brother. When the book ended, however, Tatelgaum felt bereft.
Loneliness took over her days and her life. Tatelbaum withdrew from all social contacts. Getting back to her normal life took Tatelbaum months. “In order to survive, we must learn to face loss and grieve fully and trust that we can recover and re-create our own lives,” she writes.
Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence: Why it Can Matter More Than IQ, might compare taking chances to using our emotional aptitude. In order to tap this aptitude, we must determine our personal skills and apply them. Are you using your emotional aptitude? Are you taking chances?
Grief is debilitating. Because you are stressed, confused, and on emotional overload, the realization that you are taking chances may not come immediately. If you are a widow or widower, attending an event without your spouse is a major step, one of the first chances you take. You may withdraw from one group, such as couple’s bridge, and join another. Taking chances requires practice and the more chances you take, the easier it becomes.
Learning to Trust Again
According to the article, “Sudden, Unanticipated Death,” posted on the Grief Net website, grief makes us vulnerable and shakes our sense of security. You may feel less secure and less confident, the article explains, and it can be hard to “reattach to a future.”
Taking more chances may help with this reattachment. When I take a chance, I think of my deceased loved ones–people who would be cheering for me if they were still alive. This thought is more than comforting; it gives me courage.
You may find the same courage. In memory of your loved one, take a chance today. Plant some seeds and hope they will grow. Go on a mini field trip. Join a new organization. Many options are available to you. Taking chances is a way to affirm your loved ones and the life you are living.
Harriet Hodgson 2012