Three Years: Gaining in the Face of Loss

Three Years Ago

On this date in 2011, I checked my cell phone’s voicemail at the end of an afternoon gym session to hear messages from my father and sister that my grandfather had passed away.


I was still a practicing lawyer, and that day, I didn’t have any time to digest what I’d learned—I had to run to a meeting with three colleagues about a fast-approaching court deadline.

I had made it a habit to break in the middle of the day for the gym, mainly because it was a stress-reliever.  I usually came back to having missed a few dozen e-mails in the hour that I was away.  But not that afternoon.  I wished I could somehow magically transport myself home.  The best I could hope to be able to do was to hide in the locker room and mourn.  Yet I felt that I had to “man up” and participate in that meeting.  I rationalized away my emotions:  I can’t do anything now anyways; there’s no way I can secure a visa and a plane ticket to Pakistan in time for the services.  Oh, but now I wish I had at least tried.

So I went back to work.  I scrambled to compose myself for this meeting.  I joked as we all assembled in the conference room, pretending I hadn’t been rattled to the core, that I wasn’t trembling inside.  Selfishly, I felt abandoned.  My mind was in a fog—everything was moving slowly and felt surreal.  I was in a meeting with three stoic men.  I had to keep my s**t together.  A few minutes into the meeting, tears came to my eyes.  I tilted my head up slightly and tried to blink them away.  I couldn’t.  I pretended something had made its way into one of my eyes.  But I couldn’t hold myself together, and I knew tears would be flowing quickly if I didn’t leave at that moment.

I scribbled a note to one of the partners, saying I had just learned that my grandfather had died.  I dashed out of the room.  I felt like I should have stayed because I couldn’t do anything for my grandfather.  I felt that in a heavily male environment that I couldn’t reveal, couldn’t share, and had to keep emotions to myself.  I was working with three incredibly thoughtful individuals, who would have had my back for anything in the world, but I felt guilty for leaving the “team.”


It’s not just that my life is different because I traded litigation for chocolate, but I have changed how I live—or I should say, loss has changed how I live.  In these three years, I’ve been learning to:

  • Cherish

I cherish those in my life, and I cherish my time.

There are certain family members and friends who have contributed positively to my life in a variety of ways.  Many of these friends are those I met while practicing law.  I may not see them often but they have shaped me, and I know they are in my corner.  I do my best to let them know that I’m in theirs no matter what.  On the other side, I’ve let some people fade out of my life.  It has taken me a while to feel comfortable with those decisions, but they are the right ones.

I also cherish my time.  Cherishing my time is not the same as being selfish with it.  I recently met a young man who told me, shortly after we met, that he was selfish with his time, and that he only spent it with those who could benefit him.  Yes, I spend time on things I want to do so that I have time to do what I want and with whom I want.  Sometimes that time is focused on me, and sometimes it’s focused on others.

Time is my most precious asset (a gift really), and each day I try to remember to ask myself how I want to use this asset.  I find that I now can slow down to enjoy experiences that I rushed through before, such as meals with friends and family without distractions.  I had dinner with a friend the other night without checking my phone (a milestone for me!).  I was fully present.  Everything and anything else could wait.

  • Trust

I trust myself.  I’ve learned that the loudest voice isn’t necessarily right; that many times, there isn’t a right or wrong way; and that I face only myself in the mirror each day.  When others tell me which path I should take, I trust myself to sit quietly and figure it out for myself.  I trust my instincts, my gut, my heart more than ever before.  I don’t let my rationalizations always rule the day.  I trust that if I make a mistake, I’ll get past it and learn from it without beating myself up about it.

  • Share

I share.  I’ve learned to share with the people in my life that I care about them and that I enjoy spending time with them—to a fault at times because not everyone understands how to react to vulnerability, but it’s now who I am.  Maybe I’m afraid that I never told my grandfather that he was a rock in my life and never saw him enough because he was thousands of miles away and I was “busy” with my career.

I’ve learned to share what I create, regardless of how it will be received.

I’ve felt more vulnerable in these last three years than ever before, but I’ve also felt more alive in these years than I can remember.  When I think about my grandfather, I sometimes still feel abandoned, but I also know that he’s the reason I’ve gained so much.

What have you gained from loss?


I'd love to hear from you.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s