The last week has been a challenging one, another of those weeks in which my experiences of people and what I have
seen published has made me grow in understanding in a meaningful way. I watched a couple of videos today that were really poignant for me. One was by Rio Ferdinand, the British footballer who has been making a TV documentary about his wife’s death. Although what I saw was brief, it echoed in some respects my own loss experience, his wife having been in hospital for three months between diagnosis of her cancer and her passing.
Rio’s wife Rebecca passed a little under 2 years ago – and I remember the place he is in now, where he is on that never ending journey through grief, the things he has felt and experienced, how far he has yet to go.
The second video was of me, in an interview with the brilliant and so supportive Alice Frick, who is helping me with a new initiative I am launching to help people experience more happiness in their lives in even the darkest of circumstances. That video in itself was painful – because it raised so many memories and churned up so many of the feelings that are so very difficult to deal with in getting your life back. Guilt, for wanting to be happy again, anxiety about whether it appears disrespectful, sadness at the acknowledgement that Maria is no longer here… so many feelings.
But it also made me think, with huge gratitude, about the lessons I have learned during this journey.
I have had to learn a lot about myself and my weaknesses, my damage, my issues. The things about me that have made me behave the way I behave - and the way I approach my relationships and life itself. Grief is an intensely personal experience, but for many, two of the major things that can happen when you experience this kind of devastating loss are:
- Your defences are shattered and you become totally exposed, pure involuntary vulnerability.
That openness, that raw vulnerability, means you have the opportunity to face into everything that has made you into the person you are today. And to address and strip away all of things that you no longer believe or need, it offers you the chance to go back to what is your true nature and to be who you truly are without the fears and barriers that are created by the influence of others and the insecurity of caring about what others think
- You get to understand more about life
My specific experience of Maria’s passing was devastating, but death gave me the chance to understand more about life. That might sound cruel, because it was Maria who lost her life – and why should I gain from that experience? Well you can believe me when I say that I have beaten myself up about that one for years. But ultimately life is a precious gift that we need to appreciate and make the most of. And the point of life is to enjoy it – to be happy. Maria knew that more than most.
Those two opportunities are astoundingly powerful; should you choose to take them. They also require a huge amount of bravery to embrace. Because in rebuilding yourself you must explore, admit to and own your weaknesses, your mistakes and the behaviours you do not like. You must confront and go through the dark emotions… depression, sadness, guilt, anger, shame… and you have to acknowledge and accept them.
It is a painful part of life’s journey.
But the ultimate reward is a kind of freedom that most never get to experience. An understanding of life, purpose and what’s important that allows you to make more of your time on Earth. More than most even start to comprehend. It gives you greater compassion and understanding, yet also gives you the strength to set the boundaries that can stop you being abused and exploited by the agendas of others. Above all, it lets you know that it is not only ok, but essential to be happy, without guilt or shame for being so. Because in this World, where what we see seems to be so dominated by hatred, anger, fear and ignorance, taking personal responsibility and – yes – delight in your own happiness, is the most powerful way you have, not only to take full advantage of this precious gift called life, but also to have a positive impact on the collective happiness of the World.
More people than not, will read this and regard it as selfish, naïve, unrealistic and all other manner of negative things. They are the ones who have not seen or embraced death or life. The majority of people pass through life with no understanding of its purpose, they are like computer processors, passing each day with no appreciation of the gift they have been given and the endless potential it has to bring them happiness. If only they could see it. This is not to say I do not understand the hardships of life – again, you can believe me when I say I have experienced many. More than some, less than others. But the point is, there is always something to be grateful for, to enjoy. The simple pleasures of life are the most profound. I have been to the edge and back. To the few who understand and appreciate this message, congratulations – I know, like Maria and me, despite the challenges that may confront you, the choice will ultimately be, to make sure for at least part of every day, you are dancing in the light.