I have not written a blog post in over six months. Yet today marks the one year anniversary of my father’s heart attack so I thought it called for some reflection.

On October 27th, 2014, I dropped my father off at the Denver International Airport after he had spent the weekend visiting me in Boulder. Little did I know, I would be dropping him off to have a heart attack on a plane.

I am the lucky one. My family, we, are the lucky ones. We didn’t lose my dad to his massive heart attack.

This past year has been one of the toughest years of my twenty years of existence. I think when we experience a tragedy, like almost losing a loved one, we peel back the layers of our lives. We examine things maybe a bit closer. But most importantly, we learn what’s REALLY important.

This is what I’ve learned.

1. Loss is about making room. 

People will come in and out of our lives. Experiences will begin and end. We may see this as loss, but in fact when we release something, I believe we make room for something new. This something new may be bigger and better, it may be harder, but it will make you stronger. Whatever it is, we must acknowledge that loss makes room and I think that’s kinda cool.

2. Courage takes tears. 

Crying is not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of how much you are unapologetically owning your emotions and that takes courage. Crying in public is nothing to be ashamed of…trust me.

3. Help should never be feared.

Sometimes we live in a world where asking for help feels like we’ve failed. But I’ve learned there is an innate part of every human being that wants to help one another. Help is not a bandaid nor is it a weakness. It’s one of the greatest gifts of being human: we get to help one another.

4. Real friends will present themselves. 

In the times of tragedy, we learn who our real friends are. Who are the ones who are going to not just pick us up off the ground but actually guide us to our feet?

5. Seasons Change.

We can learn a thing or two from nature (actually we can learn a whole lot from nature). But one of the elements I most adore about nature is that the seasons change. Trees shed themselves of leaves. The sun may not always be there to grace us with it’s presence and when it does in the winter, it will fall earlier. This is so true for our lives. Seasons change, we shed leaves, and discover new roots. The question is: how will you embrace the change of each new season?

6. Grief has purpose. 

The aftermath of my father’s heart attack tore me to pieces. I was mad at myself for putting him on that plane. I was tired from the many sleepless nights I had endured and the fighting I had done to make sure my dad was in the proper hospital. I returned to Colorado devastated and grieving the experience. I wanted to press “pause” on my grief and return to my life. Instead I chose to embrace the grief because I found the act of feeling and purpose has immense power in healing.

7. Stay blessed. 

I have chosen to look at my life through a “blessed lens”. This means not searching for gratitudes in every situation, but basking in the sun of blessings that is this life. I use to be obsessed with finding learning lessons in everything and sometimes this drove me crazy. Instead I choose to stay blessed and not have to seek the blessings.

8. Celebrate the small wins. 

Getting out of bed is a win. Life will throw experiences at us that will rock us to our core. It’s in these rocking-your-core experiences that one must be patient with oneself. Society may be telling us that we should jump right back into where we left off, but we don’t have to if it doesn’t feel right. Doing normal, everyday tasks are wins after a tragedy. Celebrate those wins (preferably with cake!).

9. No amount of Netflix will solve your problems. 

I found myself endlessly watching Netflix after my father’s heart attack to distract myself from my feelings. I was so tired of feeling every emotion on replay that I thought Desperate Housewives would solve my problems. Desperate Housewives was a bandaid; doing things like yoga and taking walks in nature to embrace all those emotions were the real healing practices.

10. Give yourself grace. 

A dear friend of mine taught me about how instead of forgiving myself, I should tell myself “I am giving you grace!”. This was such a relief in my life for I wasn’t able to bring myself to forgive that I had been the one that had dropped my father off at the airport to get on the plane to which he would have a heart attack. By giving myself grace, I’ve acknowledged that I couldn’t have predicted that happening and though forgiveness may be a word that feels uncomfortable, I choose grace.

Have you gained new insight from a personal tragedy? If so, comment below.

3 thoughts on “The Ten Lessons I Learned From My Father’s Heart Attack

  1. This is so profound and very inspiring! Keep sharing, this post tugged on my heart strings and there are so many incredible topics you touch on with simplicity and grace. I really appreciate your truth, and I wish you and your family many years of amazing health to come. You are a gift.

  2. I hear from Ashoka U folks that you have a great story to tell about your turnaround and ability to create a curriculum at Watson. I’m a journalist working on a book for Ashoka U which specializes in campus innovation and social entrepreneurship, encouraging bold new projects and ideas that touch communities and even nations. Perhaps we could speak briefly about your work? My direct line is 610 742 9319 (East Coast).
    Best wishes, Arielle S Emmett, Ph.D., http://www.arielleemmett.com

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