When I started this blog I wrote about the pluff mud of grief. In it, I outlined how I thought my life would go…my Plan A. By now you know that Plan A went awry in a few ways not the least of which was the death of my beloved husband.
So what do we do when Plan A is not an option anymore? Move on to Plan B, right? Should we take second best? Not even close.
Michele Neff-Hernandez, founder of Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation, was living her Plan A in 2005. She had a husband, three kids and a career as a personal trainer. Life in her Plan A was good, challenging, and stressful at times but all the same, amazing.
Her widow journey began after she kissed her husband goodbye one afternoon. Phil left for his bike ride as was his routine but would not return, his young life cut short by an SUV. Breath by breath, step by step, Michele began to learn what it was like to live in profound grief and to move in a world that no longer had Phil in it. Plan A was wiped away.
Jump forward to today and you will find Michele standing in front of a room full of widows and widowers delivering a keynote address at Camp Widow in Myrtle Beach, SC. Our Plan A is gone too. Gently she reminds us that we don’t have to settle for Plan B. We can create for ourselves a new Plan A…an amazing one. Yes, it’s hard but equally, yes, it is possible. She urges us to take the lessons we have learned from love and loss and create our new Amazing life. What that looks like for each of us is different: a new job, going back to school, moving, staying put, finding new love or not. We all have our own unique path.
“If you are not at amazing, you aren’t done yet.”
~ Michele Neff-Hernandez
“It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks,” she adds. Hard? Yes, supremely. I know I personally worry about what friends and family think as I work on my own new Plan A. Some have gently pulled me aside to make sure I haven’t lost my mind. Others have unleashed cruelty that I did not deserve, looking at me through their own lens rather than accepting where I am in my journey. Some disappeared. But still others have been more supportive and empathetic than I could imagine. They trusted me and allowed me to trust myself.
Michele stands on stage with her arms in front of her, palms out holding the world at bay. “Don’t hold happiness, love and hope at a distance,” she says sweeping her arms to the side. “Create your new Plan A not despite your experience but because of it.”
I loved my Plan A with Ken and our children. I loved wandering with him photographing places I had never seen before. Depending on the role I was in, I loved my Human Resources career. Life in my Plan A was good, challenging, and stressful at times but all the same, amazing. That plan is no longer available to me.
I have grieved that loss deeply. Life moves forward and so must I.
My new Plan A keeps what I can of what filled me up before: loving my children, photography, travel and more. I have a new love in my life who makes me laugh, thinks I’m beautiful without makeup, cares about the wellbeing of my children and is brave enough to love me grief and all. (He went to Camp Widow with me…twice!) My new job pays nothing even remotely close to my corporate HR positions, in dollars that is. The intangible rewards of this work of the heart as a grief coach is exponentially more fulfilling. I wouldn’t trade that part of Plan A now.
This Plan A is not less than or second best. It is amazing and I love it. That doesn’t mean I don’t honor the life and love I had before. On the contrary, I live and love as I do today because I was loved well before. Because Ken was part of my life when he was I became the person I am today. Because of him…because of this experience.
There is another thing I know; in the blink of an eye this could all be irrevocably altered. If that happens I will have the wind knocked out of me. I will be unimaginably pissed off. I will mourn that Plan A and probably my original one too. But assuming I’m still on this side of the grass, I will eventually start building a new Plan A.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?
~ Mary Oliver, excerpt from the poem The Summer Day
So what about you? What do you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? What’s Plan A?