By Mary Cucarola – 7/5/19
“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” Henry David Thoreau
My life changed dramatically within a span of 10 years. I lost my best friend to leukemia, my 28-year marriage, my beautiful dream home, my niece to suicide, my son to a drug overdose, and my 89-year old mother to old age. As a result, I had to find a new way to view my life or be miserable for the rest of it. Depression had found its way into my being, and I could not break free of it. I began to question all my beliefs and values, wondering what the heck was going on with my life. My grief was so overwhelming, I felt like I was drowning in it.
Of course, losing my 26-year old son was by far the most difficult loss I had to face. It goes against the natural order of life to lose a child.
Life is uncertain. Hopes and dreams can be instantly shattered and everything is out of balance. What I thought would never happen to me did happen, sucking the joy right out of me. I was really angry at everybody who ever said an unkind word about my son. I would gladly take his daily lies and chaos over the finality of the deep grief I was experiencing without him. I lost the future filled with graduations, weddings, holidays, birthdays, and babies to hold in my arms. I lost my dreams.
At first, my mind and heart were filled with shock and disbelief. My only child was dead from a horrible disease society deemed as a moral failing and a burden to society. I didn’t know if I would ever recover from it. I questioned every decision I ever made and every word I spoke. I regretted most of our last conversation, but thankfully the last words I spoke to him were “I love you.”
My love was real and strong. I believed it was strong enough to fix everything. But maybe that point of view was too naïve. Maybe love has its limits. Maybe love doesn’t have the power to change or control others or alter outcomes. Maybe it’s not supposed to. Maybe I gave it too much power and it distorted my reality. Maybe love is eternal and free without expectations. Just because I loved so deeply didn’t mean I would be guaranteed a happy and healthy life. Maybe it’s less about love and more about the quality of presence. How I wish I could have spent more quality time with my best friend, my niece, my mother, and my son. Why, why, why I kept asking myself.
Some things are just meant to be accepted without obsessing about the why.
I had to nurture myself through these life changes, and I gained much more compassion in doing so. Empathy for myself and others began to seep into my heart. I had lost so much that it broke me wide open. If I couldn’t have empathy for others, I wouldn’t be able to look at my own life from a different point of view to make any meaningful changes. I had to consider other points of view, not necessarily what I grew up with or had experienced in my life. I needed to sort the truths from the falsehoods by taking a fresh, objective look at myself. What I had always wanted was a happy, healthy family, and I didn’t have it.
I started to see my life without the ideal happy family I had always envisioned. I was angry for quite a while, mainly for self-preservation, but I didn’t want my anger to define me. I decided to hold onto the good memories of my loved ones, and at the same time resolve the more difficult ones, but move forward. Most of this happened during my weekly counseling sessions with my grief counselor, who is the most spiritually grounded person I have ever known.
What emerged was a much more open, compassionate, and spiritual person underneath all of the pain and hurt. I found an ideal happy family in my granddaughter and extended family, who cheer me on in every single thing I do. They are all pure-hearted spirits who have supported me in my new normal every single day. They have given me the graduations, weddings, holidays, birthdays, and babies to hold in my arms.
In discovering empathy for myself and others and becoming more open, I learned to be vulnerable and occasionally courageous. I learned to give my love more freely without expectations and not to judge others going through tough times. Acceptance became key to finding perspective. Also, it helped me to have a purpose in life, which is what I found in Cody’s Fresh Start. I know the work is not only honoring my son, but healing for me, too.
Life ebbs and flows and the good and bad comes and goes for everyone. Finding a different perspective changed how I felt and what I saw. I’ve become more tolerant, compassionate, and liberal in my views. I ask for help when I need it, and I practice a lot of self-care. I don’t believe the physical world is all there is. I believe there is a world of spirit and meaning, too. Tapping into the deeper meaning behind my experiences in the physical world allowed me to accept what happened with less difficulty.
I think of Cody as being in the light and away from the darkness of his addiction. I need to be in the light, too, in order to feel his presence, which I know is with me when my own energy is light. He wouldn’t want me to stay in the darkness of my grief. Neither would my best friend, my niece, or my mother.
Finding perspective was changing the window through which I viewed the world and seeing the many blessings which had arisen out of my new normal.
Mary Cucarola – 7/5/19