My article on loss from February 14th – Everything Changes – evoked a different response than I expected. Rather than the normal set of commentary, I received a number of private messages, all with stories of loss, and sometimes multiple losses. And they also came with questions. How do I go on? Will I ever love again? Will I ever be able to give myself completely again? Now while I at this moment felt completely unqualified to answer many of their questions, I knew from personal experience that they already had the answers they needed inside themselves, they just didn't know how to find them.
It's more than that though. By refusing to accept the simple fact that one way or another, every person in our life will somehow leave us – unless of course we leave them first – we resign ourselves to a painful existence. And by refusing to except the universal truth that "Everyone Leaves", you cannot move forward with your life, and therefor you stay exactly the same.
But on rare occasions, if we are willing to make incredible changes in our own lives, sometimes we can influence that person to redirect the change in their life to something that is a bit more palatable and painless for you. I want to reiterate that only on rare occasions can we affect change in others. And in many of those cases, our efforts to affect the change of another will have the opposite effect, and drive them even further away from you.
As an example of redirecting change, one of my daughters can be quite rebellious, and shortly after turning 18, she made the decision to move away to live with a high school friend and her boyfriend. The boyfriend owned his own cellphone repair business and she would work for him. Now I was okay with all of this, and was practicing the acceptance of an adult decision my daughter had made. Until I found out where she was moving was 900 miles away. So I intervened. I asked her what I could do to change her mind, and what it took doesn't really matter. What does matter is that it changed the dynamic of our father daughter relationship forever.
So while it is impossible to stop change in others, in some circumstances we can sometimes affect the direction of it. If I had refused to accept my daughter's decision to move 900 miles away, and stubbornly told her she was on her own, or she'd be back, I would have been in denial of the changes going on around me. And because if I had been unwilling to adapt to this change in my life, my relationship with my daughter would have been irreparably harmed.
Here's a second example of loss that many of you will be able to identify with. Upon returning from a business trip, my second wife of some 12 years told me that she was planning to leave me and had already retained and attorney. I did my very best to practice acceptance here, and except for a few moments of weakness, the jest of my message to her was two fold, acceptance and change:
Acceptance: "I love you and I want you to stay and work things out with me. But if if you feel like you must go, then please go."
My willingness to accept the change that was being forced upon me was obvious from this statement, but it was also important that she understand that I was ready to let her go, if that was really what she wanted.
Change: "But don't stay gone too long, or there will be someone else here in your place."
I also recognized in that moment that my life would change substantially, and eventually someone else would become my partner, if my wife and I couldn't work things out amicably.
My ability to recognize that some things in my life are completely out of my control and accept that – knowing that my life was going to change very quickly and quite significantly – made the act of dissolving a 12 year marriage more palatable for me. That's not to say it was easy in the least. But because I practiced these two principles, I knew that there was a light at the end of the tunnel.
And by moving on with my life, I was able to use the lessons learned from my failed second marriage and apply those to my third. And this is where being willing to change becomes very valuable in your life.
Let me say that again: By taking a thorough personal inventory of my failed marriage, and accepting that the mistakes I made that led to it's failure, I was able to make changes in my own life that would make me a better husband.
These two principles, accepting the things we cannot change, and and having the courage to change what we can, are not new. They have been known to most of you much of your life. They come from The Lord's Prayer. The third principle included in that prayer is Wisdom and I'll be writing about this in a future article.
Speaking of future articles, I hope you will look out later today for my third article in a series about loss. It explains a concept I call the Rhythm of Life. This article will describe what causes much of the pain you feel when dealing with loss, and how to deal with it in a positive way.
I hope that this article has helps those who have trouble dealing with loss in their lives. This is just one instance and two examples of accepting the things that are completely out of our control, and then making the changes in my own life that allowed me to move forward, and become somehow a better man because of those changes.
Your comments and questions are very important to me. Please leave those below in the comments section.