There is nothing a real or as jarring as the passing of a loved one. We are not only battling the shock of loss, but the spotlight suddenly illuminates anything we regret.
We think of the time we didn’t get to spend with the person we just lost. We also tend to think of all the things that loved one will miss out on; from meeting future children or grandchildren, to fulfilling desires and purpose.
Then of course we think of our own desires, our own purpose and passions in life. That reminder of our time on earth being finite is a rude awakening in the midst of our grief.
Have you ever felt the pull of existential dread?
It sounds dramatic, but ‘existential dread’ or an ‘existential crisis’ is really just a more general way of saying ‘midlife crisis’, but without making it about age alone. I’m sure that many people have these feelings around midlife; it’s a normal time to reassess your direction as your kids fly the next and your responsibilities and priorities change. But the truth is we can experience this existential dread at any time.
The death of somebody we cared about is often a trigger for it! It is witnessing one person’s loss of life that brings on this very natural reaction in us — to reassess our own priorities.
Really, I think we should all be reassessing our priorities, perhaps on a smaller scale, but as often as we can. It is all too easy for the busyness of life to gently nudge us onto autopilot. We need a lot of energy to get everything done — so we wouldn’t naturally just find extra time on a regular basis to sit quietly with our thoughts and ask ourselves the important questions.
Where am I heading? Am I happy with that? If I died tomorrow, would I have fulfilled my potential?
That last question is pretty intense to say the least. It’s actually one I discussed with my mother some time ago, after her Alzheimer’s diagnosis.
The last time I asked myself the big questions…
Only a couple of months ago I lost a dear friend. Dr. Tedford had been a great cheerleader of mine, and had always encouraged me to follow my dream of singing more.
By the way, if you are a multi-passionate person like I am, then just let me remind you that it’s okay to have more than one big goal.
My goals have kept me very busy over the years, and I’m far from achieving them all yet. Making more time to perform has been on my list since childhood, but was one of those goals that always got pushed back in favor of the more academic and business-oriented ones. A lesson from childhood that is taking a while to unlearn! But that’s another story for another day.
The simple fact is that today, without singing more and sharing my music with the world, a part of me has been unfulfilled. If I were to die tomorrow, then this would be a regret. So with the passing of one of my biggest cheerleaders, or course I had to address this.
The last time I saw Dr. Tedford, he told me I would be singing at an upcoming event. I’m not sure if this was a prediction or a challenge! But his words gave me chills at the time, and even more so when I think about it now.
It wasn’t long after that he passed. With his words still ringing in my ears, I took to live social media to sing him a song and begin to honor our agreement that I wouldn’t keep letting time pass without pursuing my love of music.
But goals are a funny thing. I think that rather than being a final destination, they are little milestones on a journey. Humans are purpose-driven creatures, and we don’t stop pursuing our passions until we leave this world. So I have to keep setting new singing goals for myself, and I like to think that Dr. Tedford would be pleased about this.
Most recently I sang on the TEDx Peterborough stage while delivering my third TEDx talk. That was a big milestone on my journey; but of course, I will have many more of those to come.
For now, it’s anyone’s guess which stage I will sing from next. But I trust that the universe will present me with my next opportunity soon. These things tend to happen when you open yourself up to possibility and just trust.
As my co-authors and I wrote about in Life After Trauma, it’s the toughest experiences in life that bring about the most growth and change. If you’ve lost someone you loved, maybe you could find some comfort in thinking about all that you learned from them. Maybe they saw something in you, a talent or a passion, that you’ve been holding back on pursuing.
The passing of a loved one brings a whole whirlpool of emotions; but they don’t all have to be negative. If we are willing to learn lessons from observing the fragility of life, then we can carry on our own journey growing ever stronger, until we meet those loved ones again one day.
Originally published at www.andreapennington.com on April 8, 2019.