Just a few short months after the sudden and unexpected death of my beloved husband Glenn, I had an email exchange with a Sandy Hook mother who had lost her 6-year-old son Jesse on that terrible day. I don’t think anyone can imagine anything worse than the innocence of a kindergartener being gunned down by a deranged madman. And what she said to me will stick with me for the rest of my life.
“Out of trauma comes growth,” she said. “It’s called post traumatic growth. A strange phenomenon comes out of tragedy, your heart grows, sometimes doubles, triples in size. I don’t know how or why this happens, but it just does.”
March 23, 2013 had started out like any other day. I went out to do errands like I’d done so many Saturdays before. While I was away my husband Glenn suffered a massive brain hemorrhage. We never spoke to each other again. I was thrown into this thing called “grief” without knowing what to do. I felt lost.
Glenn was a beautiful man on the inside and outside. He had figured out the secret to a happy life long before I met and married him. He was highly educated, had traveled the globe, thrice married, had friends the world over, yet, he was a simple man.
Looking for the good was what he did. He had learned to live in and appreciate the moment. Rushing here and there no longer interested him. Instead, he yearned for the simple things in life and love of his family made him the happiest. Regardless of what was going on around him, his heart always seemed to be full.
Glenn made it easy for me in many ways. After his sudden death, I made a conscious decision that the best way to honor him would be to live more like he had lived. By doing so, I would also be honoring me, our life together, our love.
Don’t get me wrong it wasn’t easy after Glenn died. It was horrible! He was the glue that held our family together. I was lost and very alone.
During this time a well-meaning therapist suggested that I give back. At first, I reacted and thought ‘what did I get to give back for?’
I soon realized that I had much to give back. I thought about that Sandy Hook mother and Post Traumatic Growth. She lost her precious child, he only had 6 years. Glenn had 57. I was still here.
I thought about my life with and since Glenn. When I would think about these things, my heart felt full. Sometimes just looking at a tiny flower growing out of the crack in the road would bring tears to my eyes.
I started noticing the love that others held for each other would bring me joy too. I felt grateful for the time Glenn and I shared instead of resentment for the time we lost. I got back in close touch with my siblings. I started my foundation, Connections of Hope. Nature and music became my friends.
The bereaved have become my family now. I’ve met thousands of beautiful people who have lost loved ones. We share a commonality that brings us together.
My heart opened because of losing my husband to sudden death. I never would have believed this in a million years until it happened to me.
Out of grief comes growth.
Read more of Rachel’s story on her website Connections of Hope.
Rachel is a contributor to Grief Dialogues: Stories of Love and Loss.