One of the first work meetings I attended after my dad died (he died while I was on maternity leave with Lauren) involved a major interoffice brainstorm for a national greeting card company.
We were brainstorming ways grandparents could show their love for their grandkids (via cards and gifts, naturally).
Needless to say, it was a VERY painful day. I spent most of the time hiding out in the bathroom, crying, desperately missing my dad. Because his death happened while I was out of the office, not many people knew about it – and certainly not my colleagues from another office.
I felt bad about not participating, so after it was over, I approached one of the brainstorm leaders. She worked out of another office, and I didn’t know her really well.
I explained, through my tears, why I was absent for the majority of the session (and why I was still crying).
She started tearing up also. She lost her dad about 10 years before, while she was in college. I will never forget what she said to me next.
“This might sound weird, but I honestly believe,” she said, “that I lost my dad while I was so young so that I could help my friends who would lose their parents in the future. It was completely devastating when it happened, but I’ve been able to help others who’ve lost their mom or dad because I’ve been there. It sucks, but I’ve been there.”
Her words really resonated with me.
I remember after Mike’s funeral, on the long drive back home, telling my mom that of all my friends at the funeral, I was probably the only one who could deal with the death of a spouse at this point in our lives. That maybe losing Mike was a way to prepare me for something more, something greater.
I believe everything happens for a reason. I don’t know why so much has been thrust on me and my family over the last few years, but I know that it’s made me a stronger person in some regards. I pray that I don’t have to help anyone through the loss of her/his significant other any time soon, but I’ve learned a lot in the last 10 months. And someday, I’m hope I can use my experience to help others.
I’m thankful for that colleague and her wise words. I think about her words often and I recently shared with her how much her comments meant to me.