When my fiancé died suddenly and completely unexpectedly of an asthma attack at the age of fifty, it felt as if the biggest part of me had died with him. Just four weeks previously we had gotten engaged in Paris, and the world seemed perfect. Then this.
My body and brain just about functioned to get me through the day, no more.
Why him? Why am I still here? I was only fifty as well and the thought of thirty or so David-less years filled me with dread. Many things lost their meaning—including, or especially, my job as a management consultant. My body and brain just about functioned to get me through the day, no more. I was lucky that I had a net of love from friends and family that carried me. Had a doctor presented me with the diagnosis of terminal cancer back then, I’d have hugged her with delight.
“Mindfulness” is an omnipresent buzzword. For me living mindfully on an hourly, daily, weekly basis was the only bearable mode of being. I experienced the healing effect of my daily walks through the Scottish countryside, preferably on a beach, along the loch or canal, and preferably on my own. I discovered yoga as an important ingredient, and I’ve always been into creative things anyway. I binge-read lots of grief-related books, articles, blogs, and poems and found many helpful words and snippets on my journey of trying to make sense of this new normal.
One day on a walk along the canal in my chosen hometown near Edinburgh, Scotland, I realised that my hunger for life had returned miraculously, along with a huge portion of new courage and determination. I no longer wanted to die—I still had a job to do! That job is to use the skills and expertise from my consulting work and my other business to create Fire & Rain Soul Spas—retreat holidays in the Scottish islands for people who have, like me, lost their life partner.
I feel I’m doing this with and for him, which is very comforting.
This new focus helped me share with others some of the things that have helped me heal and make me want to live again—walks on the beach and in the mountains, stargazing, yoga practice, mindfulness meditation, and more—in the company of people who really understand. These retreats provide a safe space and remind us that life is worth living to the full, even after a great loss.
The name Fire & Rain comes from James Taylor’s song about surviving hard times, which was David’s all-time favourite song. I feel I’m doing this with and for him, which is very comforting. I don’t want to see my new path of finding what feels good and helping others as an Option B, but rather as my new Option A. I’m excited about this opportunity for helping others who are finding themselves in the situation that nobody chooses to be in.
I’m inspired by the poet Mary Oliver, who asks us, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one and precious life?”