The Anger Of Loss
“I went from angry and bitter in my grief journey to happy in the blink of an—well, a new script. Let me explain.
After my wife of 30 years passed away, as you can imagine I suddenly found myself in utter dismay. What I was completely unprepared for, however, was the discovery that so many things in my life would remind me that she was gone.
I guess it makes sense. When you’re married to someone for 30 years and you’ve built a life together, everything probably should remind you of her, from every song, to the furniture in your home, to Costco, to a beat-up-broken-down couch to… well, everything.
But what shocked me the most in my grief journey was the first time I saw an old couple holding hands in Walmart. My reaction? NOT good.
You have to understand. I was so desperately and hopelessly in love with my wife; there are no words to describe it. She was my EVERYTHING. My confidant, my counselor, my sweetheart, my Queen.
No thing and no one came before her. She was my best friend and I was looking forward to growing old with her. And I think that was the problem.
As I walked through Walmart that day hunting for some food for my kids, I spotted them. A couple in their 80’s or so who I could tell absolutely loved each other.
I stopped and watched in silence as they smiled at one another, chatted, lovingly looked at each other, and seemed to be so in love. And I was enraged. Jealousy and bitterness completely engulfed me and I drooped my head forward to see both my hands balled into tight fists.
Next, tears erupted from my eyes. I silently sobbed as I thought, ‘This is so wrong. What has happened is so unfair. I lost my sweet wife, and the kids lost their sweet mom. This SUCKS!’
I wanted to grow old with Shelly. I wanted to go grocery shopping with her when we were old and too smile at each other, chat, lovingly look at each other, and be so in love.
I knew that staring at a sweet old couple with rage tears flowing down my face was probably not a great thing, so I turned away, left my cart right there in the produce section of Walmart, and anger-walked out to my car.
As I drove home raging over the unfairness of my life, I couldn’t help but spin more and more out of control. But as I got closer to home I realized that all my happy, buoyant kids would be a bit shocked and confused if they saw me in a fury state, so I pulled into the Lowe’s parking lot away from any people and took some time to compose myself.
After a long time alone in the parking lot, I drove home and acted as if nothing had happened. But it had, and I was confident it would happen again…if I didn’t do something about it.
Transforming My Grief
Years ago I had developed a strategy (I originally used it with my kids on the autism spectrum) that enabled me to view things in an entirely different manor and change my reaction when I encountered challenges I knew I may face again. And it worked wonderfully with them and allowed me to be a better dad.
I wondered, could I shape-shift that old strategy for this situation? It seemed far-fetched (you know, because it seemed as if I had NO control over my emotions), but, like I said, I knew it would happen again if I didn’t do something about it.
After all, I believe that things don’t get better by chance. I must actively make them better. So, I went to work.
I decided that my response was unhealthy for me and for others, so I sat down to write a new script for the next time I saw an old couple in love.
A completely different script. A better script. A wonderful script. A beautiful script. A script that would have me soaking up their love as I spread love and kindness and removed all my bitterness and hate and rage.
And, to my surprise, it didn’t remove the tears, it only transformed them into tears of joy.
Finding Joy After Loss
A few days later came my chance to act out my new script. As I walked out of Walmart I spotted a cute old couple holding hands and very slowly and carefully walking towards me. Immediately, I smiled at them and they smiled back.
I slowly approached and said, ‘You two seem so in love. I love that so much.’
You see, my new script required me to first look for older couples that looked like they loved each other. Next, I was to approach them kindly and try and feel their love for each other. And finally, my last step was to let their love fill me with joy and share how it impacted me.
When I spoke to them, they stopped cold in their tracks, looked at each other, and looked back at me. Next, the sweet old lady said, ‘Come here young man.’ As I approached, she seemed unable to restrain herself as she leaned towards me and said, ‘We really do love each other. Come closer and give me a hug.’
As I leaned in, she and her husband both gave me the sweetest and longest hug I’ve received in forever. And I truly felt of their love for each other and me. As they pulled away, I noticed wetness in her eyes and immediately teared up myself.
As I glanced towards her husband, he too had tears in his eyes and said to me, ‘Thank you so much for saying that. You just reminded us. You’re a good young man.’ Before I could reply, his wife again grabbed and hugged me, then very quietly whispered something I couldn’t understand.
Then the sweetest thing happened. They turned towards each other and hugged each other very tightly.
As I walked away, I could see the tears in both their eyes as they looked at each other. They DID love each other, and seeing them so in love left me walking away with tears of joy.
‘THAT’S what I’m talking about! That’s what seeing an older couple in love should do to me!’ I screamed in my mind. The experience left me grateful for love and that I had thirty years of that kind of love with my sweet wife, Shelly.
Since then, over and over and over again I’ve shared wonderful experiences with older couples that were complete strangers to me. I’ve used my new script.
Each and every time, these older couples have allowed me to feel their love. Many times we’ve shared giant smiles. A few times we’ve shared hugs. Even fewer times we’ve shared tears.
But every single time, without fail, we’ve felt each other’s love.
I’ve gone from angry and bitter to tears of happiness. Now, I’m constantly on the lookout. And if you’re an older couple in love, watch out. You may just help this widower feel the kind of love that Shelly and I would have shared as we grew old together.”
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