Lessons from the Afterlife: What I Learned Since My Daughter’s Death

door-light-nsphny.betterIt has been more than three years since my daughter Teal’s sudden death from a medically unexplainable cardiac arrest. This week she would have been 26. Though I have known the worst grief of my life since her death, I have also — unexpectedly — been lifted up to a far greater place.

In a letter she gave me the Christmas before she died, she described a psychic’s words about our shared path. “We are supposed to be leaders in light supporting each other,” Teal wrote in her usual worldly wisdom. “So from now on I support any light leadership you have to bring to the world … so let’s be leaders of and in light. Ya!”

These are the lessons I  learned from Teal not in her death, but in her life everlasting. If you listen hard enough, if you open up fully enough, if you, too, are willing to believe that good can come from bad, you can discover your own lessons.

These are mine:

  1. I am not special. I am no different from you or anyone else — so I don’t need to keep proving how special or important I am. In fact, I am just like you so I can feel your pain, understand who you are, and so know our common one-ness.
  2. It’s safe to take a rest. I don’t have to keep frantically ‘doing’ and reinventing myself time and again. I can actually stop and rest for a while and, as my friend Jon put it, “let the game come to me.”
  3. I am loved — and lovable. Once I surrounded myself with angry, controlling lovers who I considered to be ‘my people’. Then I found love with a woman who was far more interested in enjoying life with me than managing me. The key was deciding for once and for all that I am lovable. It took a while to talk myself into it … but, oh, it was worth it.  When I was ready, she simply appeared.
  4. The Universe always has surprises just ahead. Sometimes they are devastating — but sometimes they are unspeakably beautiful. I had to lose everything to learn this, and so create a terrifying gap in my very sense of who I was. Yet into this gap poured pure goodness, the likes of which I had never seen before. By letting go, I have manifested true love, a wonderful home, an abundant paying job writing books and speaking from the heart, and an awesome community of friends. The void is an amazingly creative place.
  5. I am enough just as I am. I don’t have to be a superstar like my dad wanted me to be. And I don’t have to be the socially correct, preppy Martha Stewart my mom wanted me to be. That’s who they were. Turns out I get to be me … which is ever so much more fun.
  6. There is a spiritual tenderness to every moment. It doesn’t live in yesterday’s concerns of tomorrow’s hopes. It lives in the here and now and it is always available — if you look for it.
  7. Happiness is well worth cultivating. After we teach ourselves to suffer, to be angry, to be righteous and sad; after we fill our heads with a million hard stories and festering excuses, we have a choice. We can bravely grieve the past and let it go. We can move through our pain one one day at a time until it’s finally complete. We can stop clinging to illusions and finally stand up in our strength. We can look outside ourselves and see there are people all around us whom we don’t even know. We can reach out and so once again find our strength. The past is only the past, not a set of good excuses for the loneliness and suffering of today.
  8. The human heart is designed to heal, to beat more brightly with greater love as it lives each day. It is our responsibility simply to listen and follow, for this heart of ours is our guiding light and our most precious north star. So I have learned to come back to myself and become the woman I was meant to be — alive, honest, and free in my own skin.

I have become a leader in love and light just as Teal knew some day I would be. Little did either of us realize what it would take for this to happen.

Yet this, as with everything else in life, truly is completely perfect.

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