For years I struggled to find my purpose in life. I did everything I was supposed to do. I went to college and got a degree in accounting, then went on to more schooling to obtain my masters in finance so I could further my career. I held a lucrative position as a Regional Controller for Whole Foods Market. But something was missing. I yearned for a family.
That came in the year 2000: the best decade of my life. I got married, had three kids and took a leap of faith, turning in my accounting hat for a writer’s pen. For the next ten years I felt complete. As a mother I gave and received much love. As an aspiring writer I felt renewed with hopes and possibilities for a new career. Best of all I had the love and support of a wonderful husband who was the anchor to it all.
And then he died.
My anchor got pulled away and I was left to drift through life all on my own.
Nothing in the world made sense anymore. To make matters worse it seemed as though everyone was moving forward with their lives and I was stuck in a parallel existence. I lived with one foot in the past and one in the present. I didn’t even want to think about a future. All I could do was scream inside like a temperamental toddler, “I had a future, I want that future back!”
But life has a way of propelling you forward, forcing you to take the next step. Grief, however, added resistance every time I tried to move. It felt as though I was traveling up a downward moving staircase. And I kept slipping. I was so tired, I didn’t want to keep moving, the force against me felt too strong. But there was a bigger force within me that wouldn’t let me give up.
That force was my boundless love for my children.
I thank God every day for my children. They were my saving grace from the get go. They had no idea that my love for them and desire to help them heal far outweighed my exhaustion and yearning to crawl under a rock and hide. I pushed myself to get up and face the day for their sake. They became my motivation, my determination – my purpose for living.
They were so young. They didn’t deserve to have this trauma in their childhood. I felt horrible that I couldn’t protect them from the pain. Isn’t that what a parent is supposed to do? Clean the wound, kiss it and promise it would all be better? How could I promise something I wasn’t so sure about myself?
And what about me? Why couldn’t I get out of bed for myself? Unfortunately, this early in the grieving stage I really needed an external purpose. In the beginning, my sole focus and purpose for living was to be there for my children.
And therein lay the rub. To help my children heal, I had to heal as well.
Each day I had to get out of bed, make their breakfasts, lunches, and take them to school. Every afternoon I had to pick them up, do homework, go to an activity, feed them dinner then face the bed-time routine. I would collapse in my own bed very soon after saying good night to them, already dreading that I would have to face another day without Larry.
What I didn’t realize at the time was that I was affirming my own life, my own existence, one tiny step at a time. I’m sure you’ve heard the clichés over the years: “walk the talk,” “fake it until you make it…”
These notions stem from Aristotle’s ethics and virtues, where he once noted that we become virtuous by acting virtuously. The more we practice a habit, the more the habit becomes reality.
In the beginning I got out of bed each day to care for my children: they became my higher purpose. As time passed I started to get out of bed to live my own life.
Are you searching for your higher purpose? What gets you out of bed each day?
Here are some tips to help you find it:
• What comes to mind immediately when someone asks you what you love most?
• What can you do over and over without it feeling like work?
• What would you be doing right now even if you weren’t getting paid?
Answering these questions helped me immensely. My love for my children was what got me out of bed each morning. After a while, my desire to write came back, but with a different voice. And, after experiencing such a profound level of grief, a new purpose came to light: one that would help others heal. This soon became a driving force of who I am today.
My life today is certainly not what I would have I envisioned it to be five years ago. But as I learned when I sought a new purpose in creating a family, one’s purpose can and often does change as life changes.
Right now my life is filled with a multitude of purposes. My children remain at the top of the list in my life, but I have added more: my dogs, myself, my relationships with my family and friends and now a new community that makes me want to live my life to the best of my abilities.
I used to pray each day for Mother Mary to help me just get through the day, yearning for the moment I could crawl into my bed and go to sleep, to that place where I could escape reality.
Now I pray She helps me embrace each day, live in the moment and appreciate all I have.
I no longer dread the rising sun and all that waits for me ahead.
Life is still very hectic – how can it not be with three adolescent boys? I’m still alone (I haven’t remarried), but I don’t feel alone anymore. I’ve filled my life with love. The power of that love makes me want to experience every new day.
If grief has recently come into your life, you may be wondering if you even have a purpose. I’m here to tell you that you do, but you have to find it on your own.
Start with one simple question- what brings love into your life? Focus on that one thing, until you feel ready to ask the next question.
I pray you find love in your day,
PS. The boys in the photo are my children (photo from 2008). They helped me get through the most difficult time in my life. I love them to pieces!