This is an excerpt from Navigating 5 Life Changes: An Odyssey of Resiliency and
Hope, which is available on my website:

When we hear the word odyssey what images come to mind? A trip to a faraway
place, a search for something, being gone for an extended period of time, a wandering
as the Greek warrior Odysseus? (By definition an odyssey is oftentimes a long,
excruciating and exhilarating journey, any extended wandering.) The odyssey
metaphor seems like the perfect one for me because I felt I was “away” for a long time.
The sudden death of my husband was the beginning of my five year quest which took
me on a journey of self-discovery and culminated in my “coming home,” a changed
person and fully embracing a changed life.

Where does one begin to tell a story of a journey so life-altering? Many spiritual leaders
say all of our life is a journey. Sometimes we are headed in a certain direction and all of
a sudden are thrown off course. Things happen we could not have anticipated. How
we cope with these unexpected events catapults us out of our comfort zone and starts
us in a new direction. Life as we experienced it is forever changed. We slowly learn
new ways of coping and tap into an inner strength which surprises us with its power.

I set out on my odyssey imagining a different life for myself. I didn’t know how I was
going to do this but I did have a vision in mind and set down my goals for the next six
months because I thought this was a time frame I could manage. This is how I have
lived and survived. By setting small goals for myself for a short term, I was able to
reach each milestone, look ahead a short distance and keep on going. When I felt
overwhelmed by the magnitude of the journey, I stopped myself and looked back at how
far I had traveled. Throughout all the changes I was navigating, I kept my compass set
for my own true north, followed my own inner guidance and took that leap of faith.

We all have our individual stories to tell – who we are, where we come from, our roots,
ancestors, and the unique life experiences which molded us. A feeling of belonging to a
family, a clan, our own tribe and we are all looking for our place in this world, how we
connect with others and why – is it coincidence, synchronicity, a master plan? Are we
the master, the creator of our own destiny? Or do we create with others, those who
have come before us; those who are in the present or those in some future time? For
me it’s a combination of all of these. My odyssey focuses on a critical five years of my
life, and I hope my story might help others who see their lives changing and may feel
uncertain about which direction to go.

So, too an odyssey takes you to new places and gives you new perspectives that are
different from your experiences or what you may have planned when starting out. It
puts you front and center with the realities and the day-to-day challenges our lives
present to us. We confront them with our best coping mechanisms. The true value is
how we take those experiences and move ourselves forward with an eye on the horizon
and our feet firmly planted beneath us.

As a result of my journey through five major life changes, I have learned more intimately
about love, loss and renewal and that rebirth is possible at any age. I have discovered a
renewed enthusiasm and a new way of relating to others and have realized how
important it is to be engaged in life. What that means is different for each of us. For me
having an interest in life, in people I am encountering and being open to possibilities
that may arise unexpectedly is part of the adventure.

Losing a spouse or loved one is one of the hardest things to go through – one cannot
put a timeline on grief. The loss becomes part of who we are. We integrate it the best
we can into our lives and those who we’ve loved and lost can be the impetus for waking
up to our own lives. We have to look to the choices we are making. We never will know
or be able to rationalize why someone dies or gets cancer. Some questions remain
unanswered and we are forced to accept loss as part of life.

Of all the many wonderful things about my husband, I remember best his deep love for
me and our family. Also his humor and his philosophy “don’t take it all so seriously, it’s
only life.” For me, the essence of the man – the love, the life, the laughter is what I

This odyssey has helped me gain perspective. I have learned to navigate change
through love, loss and come out the other side a renewed and enriched person. I hope
my journey will give others inspiration to move through life’s changes at their own pace
and find their own way forward.

Throughout my journey, I wrote down my thoughts and experiences, some in my own
form of poetry or prose. I have included some of my writings that provided inspiration to
me at a particular point in my journey at the end of each chapter. I am sharing these with
my readers in the hope that a thought or a phrase may provide words of encouragement
along the way.

Mary Lou Meddaugh

Mary Lou Meddaugh is a Certified Life Coach and founder of Creative Coaching Methods. Her vision is to empower others to achieve their goals and dreams and embrace change. She founded Creative Coaching Methods based on her own personal experience with major life changes in a short period of time and the lack of one central resource to help her navigate those changes. By combining her personal and professional experience, Mary Lou coaches clients to visualize important changes and to manifest them For more than 13 years, Mary Lou worked as a Senior Marketing Manager in the US for an international company headquartered in Europe. She mentored and coached her staff and colleagues around the globe on how to manage organizational change, set goals and achieve success. With her knowledge and life experience, she is committed to helping her clients achieve their vision and objectives for personal and professional development. She is a member of the Western Mass Coaching Alliance (WMCA) ( She has taught workshops on marketing strategies and embracing change. She has also been a Cancer Coach with the Cancer Wellness organization in Western New York. She is the author of What’s Next: New Beginnings, a 6-step process for change. She currently lives in Northampton, Massachusetts.

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