Surviving Loss: You Always Have The Choice To Overcome It

Written by on January 21, 2017 in Conscious Evolution, Conscious Living, Thrive with 0 Comments

By: Teresa Shimogawa | Tiny Buddha

“I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.” ~Stephen Covey

One ordinary night after an ordinary day of work and family, I went to bed a mother, wife, teacher, writer-person.

I remember falling asleep between sentences exchanged with my husband after an evening spent with just the two of us on our patio, something we rarely seemed to find the time to do in our busy lives. We promised each other that we’d make a concerted effort to have more of these “dates.”

The next morning, on what was supposed to be another ordinary day, I got out of bed and found my husband collapsed on the living room floor.

Our three young children slept in the nearby bedrooms as the 911 operator guided me through chest compressions.

Our babies, ages six, three, and one, slept as the firemen wheeled their father out of our home. They were sleeping when my parents rushed over so I could follow the ambulance to the hospital. I imagine they were still asleep when I was told by a doctor that there was “nothing they could do.”

The moment I officially became a thirty-four-year-old widow.


It’s a word that sticks to your tongue, something you want to knock on wood to prevent. It makes people avoid eye contact with you. It undermines your entire identity, forcing you into a new existence filled with the brutal realities of a life you didn’t sign up for and would never want.

Yesterday I was me. Today I am somebody else. I felt like a child protesting sleep before nap time. I don’t wanna, I don’t wanna, I don’t wanna.

Maybe it wasn’t real. If I didn’t look at it, it might go away. 

Except it wouldn’t.

I never contemplated this scenario as an option and I wasn’t prepared for the devastation. I don’t know if advanced warning would have helped, but something about the unexpectedness felt like even more of an injustice.

In a moment, my life was ripped in half and I felt a total loss of control of body and mind. I didn’t recognize myself. My brain felt like it was floating away and I couldn’t remember details.

I couldn’t sleep or eat.

But the pain I will never forget: a deep, searing kind that transcended anything physical.

There are practical matters to consider when one becomes a widow. Decisions nobody wants to think about, particularly when you are numb with grief. I found myself immediately bombarded with choices.

Mortuary choices. Funeral service choices. Financial choices. Parenting choices. Even stupid, little choices, like where to buy gas after having a husband who took care of that chore for the last ten years.

Humans generally dislike hard choices. Inconvenient choices. Sad choices. Uncomfortable choices. Confrontational choices. Too-many-choices.

When you are used to making decisions with another person, you might feel nervous and unsteady venturing out into the world alone. I remembered that once upon a time I lived alone and made decisions by myself, but now I felt out of practice.

I questioned my skills and capability. The grief made me forgetful, emotional, angry, sad, empty, and scared.

I frequently questioned my reality. I wondered if everything was always just a mirage in my head. Perhaps I was never married. It had to be a dream, or maybe a cruel trick, and now the rug was pulled out from beneath my feet.

In the days after my husband passed away, my six year old was moping around the house. I knew in my gut what choice I had to make. For him. For me. For all of us.

On a whim I grabbed a pen and paper and scribbled this down:

We have two choices: 1) Lay down and crumble, or 2) Get up, do great things, and make Daddy proud.

I circled the second choice. My son listened as I explained. He hung on to my every word and facial expression.

I knew I had to channel everything inside of me to convey to him that we would be okay, even if I wasn’t convinced of it myself. I knew I had to lead.

We didn’t choose this path.

But this was our life now and we still have a lot of good years left to live.

Nobody prepares us for the sludge in life, but this is exactly what being human is about: the good, the bad, the painful, the happy, the sad, the everything-in-between.

We can choose to sit down and surrender to our current circumstances, or we can get up, dust ourselves off, hold our heads up high and move forward.

It will hurt.

We’ll feel wobbly at first.

But we can do it. We are capable. We are strong. We still have a lot of love inside of our hearts to do great things.

The only other option was not an option for us.

People often say that good things can happen out of the bad. I’m here to tell you that it is true.

In the horror of it all, buried in the pain and the raw emotion, there was something magical and enlightening about loss. It exposed a side of life that I never previously experienced. It’s a strange, curious feeling that shocks you to the core and simultaneously makes you realize that there is still so much more to learn and discover about life. It can’t be over yet.

Your perspective will change. Everything about your thinking will forever change.

This is good and bad.

You will mourn the loss of your innocence and the days of naivety, but in return you will discover that you have newfound empathy, an ability to feel other people’s pain deep in your bones. You become sensitive to everyone else’s losses: the person going through a divorce, the couple who lost a baby, the child in a dysfunctional home, the person struggling to fight cancer.

You know what suffering feels like. You’ve walked through hell and your calloused feet are stronger because of it.

Nobody escapes this life without suffering, and now it is your turn. Tomorrow it might be someone else’s. But the universe doesn’t keep score, so you shouldn’t either. Acknowledging that you can’t control everything is part of your liberation process. It isn’t personal. It just is.

When life doesn’t go as planned, we must hold on to the knowledge and hope that we still have choices, and that we are strong enough to make them.

There is always Plan B. Plan C. Plan D.

I don’t claim to have all of the answers, but this is what I’ve learned about making choices and how to navigate through difficult times.



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