A little over twenty years ago, my life changed dramatically. I lost my husband, my father, and my mother in less than seven years. I didn’t know it at the time, but I had entered a very intense school. The lessons were the hardest I’ve ever had to work through.
Many times I thought I was lost. I wasn’t lost, but that’s how I felt. I was really struggling. I wanted to go back to how it was, but we can’t go back. We have to learn to accept what we cannot change. Acceptance allows us to use our pain as a means of growth. I had no idea at the time that so much pain could be so rich with promise, but it is.
One thing that helped was my belief that all things come bearing a gift. This was a principle I had gleaned from my many years as a Unity student, and I clung to it tenaciously. The necessity of finding that gift was what got me out of bed in the morning. I had to know why this had happened. There had to be a reason. There had to be a purpose.
Since I didn’t know what else to do, I started asking, “What do you want me to do now, Lord?” which led to “How can I help? How can I serve?” I didn’t know it then, but that is exactly what we’re supposed to do when we don’t know how to proceed.
About a year after my husband died, I found out about Dr. Deepak Chopra, and an entirely new path opened up before me. They say when the student is ready, the teacher appears. Well, the teacher had definitely appeared. So without my realizing it, I’d been set on a path which not only would help me heal, it would answer my questions about how I could help and how I could serve.
One of the things I’ve learned is that you have to let go of how you think things should be so you can be open to God’s plan for you. Learning to let go was a really big lesson for me. You see, I always thought I was in control of my life! Actually, we’re never in control. I just didn’t know that then. Always there is a higher wisdom at work in our lives, and it knows where we need to go, what we need to do, and how to get us there.
Eventually you begin to understand that everything is exactly the way it should be at that particular moment. True, you may be hurting like crazy – emotionally, physically or some other way, but at that particular moment, this is exactly the way things need to be so you can learn what you need to learn, so you can grow in the way you need to grow.
Needless to say, it helps enormously if we can find our spiritual anchor. For me, that anchor was meditation. Why? Because it puts you in touch with the part of yourself that is always at peace, that is never sick or afraid, that never feels stressed. I’m talking about your soul, the silent awareness at the core of your being. That’s what you begin to experience when you meditate, and that’s why it is such an important tool. Meditation helps us find the peace that makes it possible for us to accept what we cannot change.
Several months after my husband died, I was visiting our Portland kids and we decided to drive to Mt. St. Helens. It had been four years since the last eruption. I was amazed at what I saw. Both a lake and a resort on the side of the mountain had vanished. All that was left was a huge hole where they had been.
Wherever we looked, the mountains were covered with bare trees, their white corpses neatly arranged like matchsticks all in a row. Some of the trunks – on their sides – were as high as our waist.
What was even more amazing was the huge, beautiful flowers that were growing between those barren trunks! Their message was not lost on me. Life does go on, and it can still be beautiful.
It was too soon for me to know I’d be writing a book about recovering from grief, but when that time came, I used pictures of that hillside on the cover of the book. Later on I was showing the book to someone and telling her about the flowers. “Oh yes,” she said, “I know all about those flowers. They only bloom after a fire!”
They only bloom after a fire? That means the potential for those blossoms – for that new life – is always there, but it isn’t triggered – it isn’t released – until something comes along that wipes out everything that was there before. And what comes then? New life. New flowers. Something truly beautiful.
Yes, challenge is part of life, but no matter how difficult something may seem, there is always a way. You are never lost. More than that, you are being guided – and loved – every step of the way.