Living with intention is not about what you do, but how you do it... and why.
For me, living a meaningful life after loss has been a journey of self-understanding, self-advocacy, and spiritual maturity.
This undertaking has translated to:
- Better relationships
- A greater capacity for compassion
- Emotional intelligence
- Mental resilience
- A greater appreciation for life
- A genuine desire to be of service to others
Because of your commitment to live each day with intention--in a way, to love every day like it was your last--you will be more apt to notice the beauty that's still left and the joy that you can still have.
After loss, that could mean everything.
After my brother died, it took years of self-avoidance before I got myself in such a dark place that I couldn't go on living the way I had been. I needed a serious change if I was going to have any semblance of a happy life.
Since then, I've discovered that alcohol does NOT make my life better. That my anger and depression had to be addressed, even though I was really good at hiding it (mostly). I had a slew of insecurities to confront, fears too.
I learned that I needed help, and subsequently that it's okay to ask for the help you need, especially when your quality of life is at stake.
These discoveries led to the realization that life is what you make it.
All the internal work that comes with taking responsibility for your life, it's not easy work. It means paying attention.
As Mary Oliver wrote, "To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work."
In no particular order, here is an incomplete list of ways you could live with intention after loss and heartbreak, and take ownership of how you do whatever it is you decide to do.
Ways to Live with Intention After Loss
1. Commit to self-discovery and learning.
Coaching, therapy, and personal development classes could all fall under this category.
For me, that means engaging in career/life/energy coaching each month with my high-performance coach, Jen Pearce (she is amazing). How you choose to invest in yourself is an entirely personal thing.
By opening yourself up to new ideas and tools, you’ll gain a better understanding of what lights you up, what doesn’t work for you anymore, what you care about, and how you want to make an impact on the world and the people in your life.
2. Practice mindfulness in everyday life.
This list may not be in any specific order, but I’m of the opinion that a mindfulness practice is the heartbeat of living a meaningful life. The more you pay attention, the richer your life will be.
My practice is far from perfect, but I try to incorporate mindfulness into meals, time spent with family and friends, and small moments whenever I remember to do so. Going outside for two minutes and breathing the fresh air counts.
Whatever it is you decide to do, be there in everything you do.
3. Practice being compassionate.
It’s not easy being human, but we can grow more compassionate with ourselves and each other if we’re willing to try, time and time again. Compassion is a practice. Forgiveness is a practice. Active listening is a skill.
After loss, there’s a lot of emotional turmoil to work through – be kind and patient with yourself while you do that. Here is where therapy, community, and classes can be of service to you.
4. Be of service.
Generosity is also a practice -- of giving without wanting or needing anything in return. You could volunteer for a cause close to your heart, donate your time or resources to others in need, or start a project or business doing work that feels right.
Through your service, you’ll connect with more people and hear their stories, bringing new perspectives to the light.
5. Live in honor of the people you love who are no longer here.
There are so many ways you could honor your loved ones who have passed.
You could adopt their values, pursue their interests, and contribute to causes they cared about. You could infuse their sense of humor, grace, and passion into your daily philosophy.
Talk about them. Share stories about them during the holidays. Ask yourself how you could emulate their most beloved qualities.
6. Create rituals for self-care.
I love my nighttime rituals so much that I wrote a book about them!
The difference between habits and rituals is intention. Rituals are practices, movements, moments in time that you fully embody and put your heart into. You show up for what's right in front of you without distraction. The beauty in that is the deep, deep healing that comes through.
Personally, I adore yoga (even if it's just stretching most nights), making nighttime teas and other brews, creating affirmations (wrote a book about that, too), and visualizing positive things before I fall asleep.
7. Nurture your relationships.
When it comes to bettering your relationships, you'll likely have to confront your own slew of insecurities, fears, and prejudices. If you're willing to stop and identify the cause of your discomfort or judgments surrounding other people, you'll learn a lot about yourself -- and who you want to be.
Life is all about your relationships, the connection you feel to everyone and everything around you. Incorporate more lovingkindness and presence into those connections, and your life will bloom.
8. Express your whole self and story.
There's no kind of relief like being able to express yourself, getting to share the story of who you are and what you believe to be true.
You could do that creatively, through writing or music or another medium. You could do that by talking about what hurts and what's hard for you, by asking for help, or by sharing the truth of your grief.
The point is to show up with honesty in your interactions. Full expression means honoring all the aspects of who you are, not numbing or avoiding the parts you wish weren't true.
Your life is not all darkness and it's not all light -- it is both, together. Life is everything, nothing less, and so are you.
You may just find strength in your vulnerability. Real strength.
9. Set boundaries.
This one deserves its own bullet point outside of relationships and self-care rituals, though it's interconnected with just about every other aspect of your life.
Boundaries are guidelines for how you want to be treated and how you choose to respond. They need a lot of clarity because they quite literally guide your life.
10. Explore the energy of your life.
Right now, I'm participating in energy coaching with my high-performance coach Jen Pearce, and it has, in the most fundamental way, given my life new life.
The goal is to pay close attention to the energetic qualities of each moment. Like mindfulness, it's a practice of being fully involved in how your life feels and, from there, guiding your life in the direction you most want to experience.
You might ask yourself how your life feels right now and why, and journal about what you find, desire, and desperately need.
You might come to the conclusion that you want to spend more time with the people you feel at home being around. Or that you need to change how you're doing things. Or that you need to surround yourself with inspiring thoughts.
Or, more than anything else, that you have the right to bring joy and beauty and lightness into this place.
In what way(s) do you live with intention after loss?
Tell me in the comments. Everything you share here helps shed some light on what life after loss can be like.
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