Q: What’s the difference between people that survive, and those that thrive after a loss?

It’s hard enough trying to make it in your career these days, what with the stress of an 80-hour week, business travel, missing your kids’ activities and not being able to spend enough time with family and friends. Yet to thrive, you must find a balance.

But what if you find that balance, life’s going well, and then you’re hit out of left field with a massive shock? What if ‘life-as-you-know-it’ screeches to a halt when your loving spouse, child or parent dies? What then? That was me, nine years ago.

How do you even consider anything more than simply surviving?

I had been living a wonderful life, so you could say I was Thriving. I had not one, but two thriving businesses, great health, a wonderful marriage and two gorgeous kids. Seriously! What more could a person ask for?

And then came that fatal day when my poor family had to give me the worse news of our lives: my beloved husband was gone, forever. My life as I knew it, was over.

When tragedy knocks at our door we often ask, “Why me? What have I done to deserve this?” I know I certainly did, and I was angry — mad as hell at the world, at God, and if you can believe it, at myself. Yes, why did I let him leave on that trip? And I’d yell out loud, “Why did you take him and not me?” My friends and family tried to help but all I wanted to do was isolate — which I later found out is a really unhealthy thing to do. I was totally stressed trying to keep it all together for my family and especially my 6 and 7 years olds who had just lost their daddy. I was in a complete fog, yet I had a myriad of decisions to make about the businesses, our estate and finally what’s going to happen to my career I’d been working on forever?! The plan had been to finally stay at home and spend time being with the children with my husband being the supporter for a while. Another plan and dream shattered.

By the way, did you know that losing a spouse is ranked the #1 stressor according to the Holmes and Rahe stress scale? I didn’t, but apparently 60% of spouses will experience a serious illness in the next 12 months! Wow! I had to do something. I couldn’t afford to get sick and my children were not going to lose another parent!!

So I found out that if you’re grieving, you actually need to be around people, especially those who have been through similar things and who understand you. I remember saying out load, “I don’t do sad! I want to feel better. I want to find happiness and love again, damn it!” Which was usually followed by me crying all over my bedroom floor for about ten minutes before I’d have to peel myself up, put on some dark glasses and a bit of lipstick, so that I could pick up the kids from school. I forced myself to go out to meet friends even when smiling actually hurt sometimes. Yes, I realized most of the time I was faking it, hoping I would eventually make it. And that was my life for a couple of years.

Until one day about two years later, when I was asked to join a ‘renegade widows group’ — six women who wanted to live life again. Well I jumped at the chance! I spent a year of special Saturday nights with these ladies and it was magical. We went to the spa, had quiet dinners at each other’s houses, arranged special outings to museums and shopping, we traveled all over and even rode camels in the deserts of Morocco! What was so magical was that we all had been through the loss of our significant others — our best friends. We understood each other so when emotions came up, we could be there for each other and we were able to talk about the good, the bad, and the ugly knowing we were in a safe place. It was the first time I felt that what I was going through was NORMAL!

But what we found tied us together the most, was our desire to move forward with our lives and find joy again! Our adventures were captured by author, Becky Aikman, in “Saturday Night Widows,” a book that received wonderful reviews, national publicity, and we were all interviewed on several morning news shows.

I was totally reinvigorated, but most of all convinced that I had to help other people going through loss. So I set about starting A New Dawn, a social-enterprise that is building a community where people can first find all the resources they need to cope and process the grief, but then they can also seek out other like-minded people and create their own groups online. Our ultimate goal is to give people the resources to heal Mind, Body and Spirit with uplifting events to inspire them to celebrate and embrace life again.

At these events people can get together, listen to inspiring speakers, have fun and learn new tools. Next month, for example we have best-selling author and speaker, Agapi Stassinopoulos who is coming to take us on a journey with personal stories, with guided meditations, and talk about her new book, Wake up to the Joy of You, which is going to be such an amazing topic for our community, as they often struggle to let go of the past or may even still have “survivor’s guilt”. Then we have Nigel Taylor’s Intuitive Mind Mastery, a weekend course to help you gain mastery over your mind, giving you more clarity, focus and the ability to squash negative thoughts that don’t serve you and instill powerful consciousness triggers to enhance the quality of your own health, sharpen your memory, sleep better, enjoy loving relationships, thrive in wellness, and much more.

When people are suffering a major loss, getting up in the morning is an accomplishment — and yet, in this fast-paced world we live in, you have to keep working to pay the bills and meet your responsibilities. My hope is that when you see people who seem stressed or sad, just be mindful of what they might be going through. A simple act of kindness is the best way to raise someone’s spirits, and bring a little happiness into their life. Happy people are less likely to get sick.

Loss is not something we can avoid — it’s going to happen to all of us — but it will be down to your attitude, who you choose to be in your close circle of friends, and you ability to stay open to HOPE that will enable you to move forward. You can choose to get bitter or get better.

Grief and loss are experiences that literally bring you to your knees, a bottoming-out of sorts. It’s our personal choice how we view this experience. It’s an opportunity re-write your script, recreate your life, and welcome in your own new dawn.

To find out more about A New Dawn, please visit: www.a-new-dawn.com

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