What does it mean to be reinvented? What does it mean to keep changing and growing? What does it mean to fulfill your dreams and aspire to reach your full potential?
These are the values that matter to me. So, at 3 months short of turning 77 years of age, I decided to create a new career to augment the work I have been doing for nearly 40 years. Forty years ago I was divorced with five children all under the age of eleven. I was a single parent, living without child support for nearly a year trying to keep a roof over my family’s head. I had been awarded the house in my divorce settlement but did not have enough money to maintain the debt service. The child support had been garnished by the IRS from my ex-husband’s bank accounts along with his declaring bankruptcy. I took the $18,000 I was awarded in alimony and invested it in graduate school. So, in 1975 I went back to school to obtain an MSW. I was 38 years old when I graduated Barry College in 1978 and had no idea where or how I would begin to get on my feet and support my family. I was twisting in the wind not knowing how I could manage.
Raised in the 50’s, the last era of innocence in this country and coming out of the Victorian era, entering the women’s movement, I was unprepared to meet the challenges that faced me. I was too busy raising the children and surviving to consider anything else but to fight my way into a new brave world, leaving behind the norms and values of my time.
Nearly forty years later I can look back through a rear view mirror and see myself forging a trajectory that was not always in my conscious awareness, but instead in the deepest part of my inner self. My muse pushed, prodded, fostered and generated the energy and the fortitude it took to take me to where I am today.
In 1998 I lost my beautiful 34 year old to suicide. Pam did not choose to leap 15 stories to her death. Her illness, bipolar disorder, pushed her out the window. That same year, 6 months before she passed, I lost a husband followed by my best girlfriend who passed away from breast cancer she had been battling for more than 14 years, followed by my father. Two months later, my mother-in-law passed and then Pam. That was the hardest year of my life, never to be forgotten. However, that was the year I made the most important choice of my life. Were these losses going to make me a victim, a survivor or a Phoenix, the mythological bird that rises from the ashes to become larger than life? I chose the last because that was the ONLY choice I had. I took the pain and transformed it into power. Survival wasn’t enough for me. I had to find meaning in Pam’s life and death. I had to find a way to take the shame and stigma out of mental illness. My mission was to help other families who suffered the same tragedy as I. If I could do it, so could they.
So approaching my 77th year, I made a decision to reinvent myself again. Not unlike Madonna and so many other creative people, I decided to re-engineer myself once again and launch a new career as an adjunct to my private practice and bring my message to the masses. Unsure of what to call myself, or what to title my message, I ruminated until one day my muse, that goddess that resides within all of us, came to me as she had so many times before. A title was born: Life After Loss: Victim? Survivor? Or the Phoenix? The choice is yours.
The loss comes in many respects. We can lose a loved one, the worst being a child as I have. We can lose our health, our jobs, our money, our marriage, our relationships, our beloved pet and our peace of mind. I decided to expand my thesis from losing a child and/or loved one to any loss that causes grief. I decided to write my next book that will be released in 2017, SEVEN STEPS TO LIFE AFTER LOSS. My hope is to share my story, courage and healing with others who suffer losses and help them grieve until acceptance is achieved. I want to give hope where grievers feel there is none. I want to give solutions where grievers believe there are none. I want to give courage where grievers lost their desire to move on. Not unlike John Walsh, Joe Biden, and the parents of the murdered children of Sandy Hope, I have chosen to become a Phoenix and make the life and death of my daughter matter.
Stay connected to my website and read the blogs that will be posted. Write your comments so I can receive your feedback and find the answers to the questions you have. I have re-invented myself to become the person I was intended to be. So can you!