True North Tips
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I hope that you had a wonderful summer and that the transition back to school is going smoothly. Our family had a nice summer, with some in-state travel and much needed unplugged overnight camp for the kids. What we didn’t anticipate was that this summer would deliver life lessons that we weren’t expecting.
Without going into the details, we were confronted with the two-sided tragedies of being close to parents who lost children and young children who lost their parents - suddenly and unexpectedly. For me, these incidents were a wake-up call that we are all living on the razor's edge. I am not naive, as I know we are always a moment away from the inevitable. But when I was confronted with these sudden and unexpected deaths I was driven right up against that edge and reminded that it can happen at any moment.
But we don’t wake up each day living in fear that it will be our last day. And we can’t focus on the fact that our loved ones could be taken from us at any moment. That would be a terrible way to live. Thankfully our brains are wired to be able to put that thought aside most of the time and we can live our lives.
These tragedies were a chance to reflect on the preciousness of life and served as a reminder of how fragile life is. As we supported our friends and community members suffering with the loss of their loved ones, my husband and I took the opportunity to talk with our boys about death, grief and loss. We showed what it means to support friends during these difficult times, talked about living in the present and discussed the importance of not only telling people that you love them, but why.
For me it was a parental reminder to shift my perspective. As parents we can spend so much time worrying about the future. We focus on hitting milestones when the kids are little, we fret over grades when they are in high school. And as they leave the nest, we wonder if they will ever be able to cook for themselves, do their own laundry and pay their bills. These are all real worries, but they are just that, often not grounded in any reality, but fabricated by the pressures of parenthood and “good old fashioned” fear.
So, when I find myself in a worry spiral I try not to distract myself with my phone. I slow down, take a breath and bring myself back to the present moment. Almost always when I scan my immediate situation, I see that my kids are really OK. This frame shift is about savoring the moments as they happen rather than spending time in the future, because try as I might, I cannot control their future. Or mine, for that matter. The here and now is REALLY all we have.
I never thought that my kids would be this close to sudden and tragic death, but this summer, they were. And while I wish that I could have kept them from that harsh reality of the razor's edge for much longer, that was not in the cards for us. So we used it as an opportunity to learn and grow. As we move forward and face the reality of our mortality and that of our friends and family and we think about living each day with love and compassion. And I try - even when it’s hard - to make the most of this complex and beautiful life, moment by precious moment.
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Jenny Michaelson is a PCI,
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