Everyone has heard the sayings “you only live once” and “life is short”, and yet those ideas never feel more true that when tragedy strikes us close to home. Sunday morning when that first text from my best friend came in that led me to learn of the horrible news coming out of Orlando, I immediately called my kids into my room and just held them and cried.
I wish I could say I was shocked that this happened. I wish. It should be shocking. It should be unbelievable that someone would do something so cruel and permanent. But sadly, this isn’t the first tragedy to pierce our hearts. This isn’t the first time we’ve watched the news as the death count rises, hand over our mouth, tears streaming down our necks.
I haven’t mourned this much over the death of complete strangers since September 11, 2001. Not to downplay in any way the horrible tragedies that have taken place since then, but this one was much more personal for me. This tragedy took place at the type of establishment I frequent regularly. This tragedy targeted a very specific group of people I identify with. As a gay dad, although I did my best to be conscious of ways to turn the situation into teaching moments for my two kids, deep down all I wanted to do was hold them and weep.
As I’ve been on social media today, I have read post after post lamenting the pain, venting the frustration, voicing a call to action, as well as well as a call to unite. So many people I am personally connected to are hurting in a way I’ve never seen before. Even as I wrestle with my own fears and pain and frustration, I can’t help but want to give comfort to those who are grief-stricken, all while facing the reality that life and responsibilities still go on. How can I honor the victims of the Orlando Massacre, while also honoring the practical commitments I’ve made in my day to day life?
So the reminders below are for me, as I attempt to reconcile the pain I’m feeling, while at the same time meet the demands of being a father, a friend, a business owner, and a life coach. Perhaps you will find value in them as well…
#1 It’s okay to cry. No, really — it’s okay to cry!
Grief comes in waves. There will be moments someone shares a joke, and surprisingly to me, a laugh comes out of nowhere. And the next minute, a hurting friend will text me, trying to find clarity, and the tears will start to flow again.
When we’re grieving, sometimes we feel guilty for still being able to smile, or even laugh. But the truth is, this is a normal part of healing. In fact, it is important to be mindful of the balance between distraction and grieving. BOTH are healthy, and BOTH are important. Every time you cry, you’re releasing pain, bringing healing, and heavy weights are being cast off of you. As I often tell my coaching clients – if you feel like you need to cry, it’s because you NEED to cry…and that’s okay!
Tears shed for another person are not a sign of weakness; they are a sign of a pure, loving heart.
Also, every time you laugh, refreshing energy is renewed inside you that reminds you that you’re going to be okay eventually. Don’t feel guilty for taking care of yourself; the better you are able to cope with the reality of what has happened, the better help you will be to those who really need you right now. And if those we lost could speak to us now, I know what they would want most is for us to unite and to take care of ourselves as well as each other; to love well, and to live life to the fullest. Which brings me to the second reminder…
#2 Reach out in love – to those in your life, and to complete strangers.
The one thing this tragedy has highlighted to me is how important it is for me to cherish each moment I have the privilege of spending with friends and family. Sunday evening, the realization hit me: those who died at Pulse Nightclub had no idea that would be their last night to dance. I have read post after post from the friends of those who perished, sharing that they had just saw them a day or so before. I can’t help but wonder how some of these “last moments” might have been different had they both known it was their last time together. Those thoughts made me take my kids in my harms and hold them closer than ever. My hugs were tighter, my kisses on their forehead wetter, and I even found myself lingering to look into their precious little eyes with love longer than normal. And it made me reach out to many friends to tell them I love and value them.
Fortunately for me, death hasn’t really touched my life personally in a long, long time. But because of that, it is almost easy for me to forget that the time I spend with a friend today very well could be my last chance.
So make the most of these moments. Tell someone you love them. Give a hug, and hold on just a little bit longer. Send a text message to someone special in your life that you haven’t talked to lately. Join hands with a stranger during a local candlelight vigil in your area, or in your place of worship this week. Be present when you’re having conversations with friends, family, and even your children. Look them in the eyes and hear what they have to say. Then take a minute to share what’s in your heart with them too.
And of course, if you’re struggling, I want to offer myself to you; to be that person who reaches out in love. My passion is the privilege of personally investing in the lives of others. Many people have been drawn to me for my support, and eventually I decided to dedicate my life to helping others like myself overcome life’s struggles.
Some of my experience includes:
- 15 years experience coaching and mentoring
- Nationally Certified Life Coach through the Life Coach Training Institute
- Hundreds of hours speaking/teaching publicly
- Ordained minister, qualified to provide pre-marriage counseling and to officiate the rite of matrimony in the State of Tennessee
- Certified to provide Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM)
- Certified disaster responder through Crisis Response International and FEMA to serve those facing crisis
Even though I’ve overcome so much in life, I still remember what it was like to be struggling in virtually every area of my life. And I certainly haven’t arrived; I am wrestling with hurt and questions over the events of this weekend just like the rest of us. There are still areas of life I’m working to grow in, and there always will be. So, you can feel safe knowing I’m not going to judge you or shame you. Click here now to schedule a free consultation…my gift to you!